As Sid Waddell once nearly said: “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer… Andy Robertson’s only 26.”
That is not to single out Robertson for Liverpool's emphatic 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City on their first outing after their first domestic league title in 30 years. It's just easy to imagine him playing darts. But even so, his performance and those of his team-mates at the Etihad raised an interesting question which will dominate the final weeks of the newly crowned champions’ season: what do you do when you’ve already done it all?
Jurgen Klopp dismissed all suggestions that his side’s thrashing was in any way a hangover from last week's title victory. “I saw a brilliant attitude. I saw boys fighting with all they have," he said. "We didn’t behave like somebody who became champion a week ago.” Could this result have happened at any time of the season? “100 per cent,” he insisted. “I think we’ve had games when we were not better than today and we won against City, that’s the truth as well.”
Pep Guardiola agreed, for what it’s worth, and was equally certain that his City players had overcome a Liverpool side at their very best. “We beat the champions with the quality they have. I saw in the guard of honour how incredibly focused they were, how they shouted. I saw their faces, that's why they're champions,” he said. “They didn't come here to celebrate. They'd drunk enough beers and they came here to compete.”
It's not like there's nothing for Liverpool to play for between now and the end of July either. Another 15 points from their possible 18 will be enough for 101 points overall, edging past City’s 2017-18 centurions. Another five wins will beat City’s total of 32 victories from that season, and whereas City finished with a record 19-point gap over the runners-up, Liverpool’s gap is currently 20 points wide.
None of those come with another medal to hang around your neck, though. None are really as compelling as being able to say you went a whole season unbeaten, a prospect that was taken away months ago. And if there were still Champions League games to find a rhythm for - or even if you’d simply never won it before and had it next on your to-do list - it would be easy to feel as though the rest of the campaign was at least building towards something. That is not the case either.
The peculiar circumstances of Project Restart probably do not help. There is an otherworldliness about the end of this season, played out as a box-ticking exercise, and Liverpool’s box was always likely to be ticked first. Still, it was striking how quickly they collapsed after Kevin De Bruyne’s penalty put City ahead. The opening 25 minutes had all the frenetic energy that meetings between these two usually have. Then, it was gone.
Liverpool were steamrolled. At the end of the first half, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden were almost combining with De Bruyne at will to stretch and pull the top flight’s best defence out of shape until gaps could be exploited with ease. The champions had chances again after the break, once they were already 3-0 behind, but never looked like City’s equals on the night again.
Klopp knows his players better than anyone - certainly better than any of us journalists - and did not take kindly to suggestions in his post-match interviews that there was some sort of drop-off in mentality. These are highly-motivated, goal-orientated professionals who have had to strive to be the best every day of their lives. Each of them has demonstrated the work ethic, dedication and commitment required to not only reach the pinnacle of the world’s popular sport and dominate the competition.
But they are also human beings, and last week was the culmination of years upon years of hard, painful and often dispiriting work in pursuit of becoming an all-conquering force. Last Thursday’s confirmation of their first Premier League title was a moment that, when at their weakest, they will have worried may never come. Given that, it would be natural for them to feel some sort of pressure valve had opened, or a weight had been lifted, and for them to linger on that sensation of sweet release.
Liverpool’s choice between now and the end of the season is simple, really. When you’re the reigning champions of England, Europe and the world, you can either start a space program or step back, take stock and enjoy it.
It will be no surprise if they break every points and win record between now and the end of the month because they have proven they are a spectacular football team. But there is also a chance that this winning machine malfunctions slightly, now there is not as much at stake, and their achievement will be no lesser for it.