Dejan Lovren believes Liverpool have come a long way since the last time they faced Real Madrid, insisting “the only thing that is similar to that night is the name.”
Lovren was part of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team that were beaten by Real Madrid 3-0 in the group stages of the Champions League back in 2014. However, the centre-back has stressed that Liverpool are now incomparable from that night at Anfield as they prepare to meet the European champions in the Kiev final on Saturday.
“The only thing that is similar to that night is the name, Liverpool,” the 28-year-old told reporters. “I am so much more confident in the team now than I was then. I feel the team is ready to battle against every team in the world.
“We showed that against Man City. Man City showed all throughout this season that they are one of the best teams in the world but they came up against Liverpool.
“I wouldn’t say they play a similar style to Real Madrid but we are a totally different team and nobody played a team like us.
“Real Madrid didn’t play against us [in 2014] like we play today. Maybe they are used to this team and they look at images from this game, but we are totally different now.”
Lovren says appearing in the Champions League final on Saturday will prove he is on course to achieve his long-held desire to become one of the best defenders in the world.
He has played a pivotal role, alongside side Virgil van Dijk in the heart of the defence, in helping Liverpool reach their first European Cup final in 11 years.
The Croatia international has recalled writing himself a note at the age of 12 setting out his aims for a career in football.
He said: “From day one when I started to play football I wrote it down — at 12 years of age I wrote it down: ‘One day I will be one of the best defenders in the world’.
“People were laughing at me but… to reach the final… I think I showed [my quality] many times.
“[I wrote it] underneath my table, out of sight, in my apartment back in Croatia where I grew up, the table where I would sit and do my homework.
“There are some people still living there and the table was part of the room so I hope it is still there. I need to go and buy the table back!”
Lovren has had to battle intense criticism and adversity in his four seasons as a Liverpool player since joining from Southampton for £20 million. But he insists he always shrugs his critics aside and uses them as a source of motivation.
“When you say I am not good enough, I will just show you I am good enough, simple as that,” he added.
“I struggled a lot in my life from day one, and you know there is belief within me and it will never go from me and it really was always there from when I was young.
“I could write you a book. I will write it myself, don’t worry, this thick [placing hands wide apart].
“There are many things, I don’t know where to start. People were mocking about me in school, mocking about as a teenager that I could not play like a defender, that I don’t have a left foot, that I am not quick enough.
“You know all these small things, they always push me to be better: you say I don’t have a left foot? I will hit it better today with my left than my right.
“To be honest, this is me, I always work on these situations. It helps me to be honest. And criticism, even if I don’t like it, I like to hear it — I know what to improve at the end.
“Maybe of course you have one or two situations where you don’t play well but I don’t know which defender doesn’t make mistakes, and then maybe sometimes people make it bigger than it is.
“When I have the confidence of the manager I don’t need anything more. I know how hard I worked and as a team how hard we worked, to achieve this so [getting to a final] is still an achievement for us, when you look back it is massive.”