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World News Triumphant Liverpool come home to a sea of red after Champions League win

Luke Skywalker

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In the end, it was a Champions League victory delivered in sweltering Madrid heat with considerably less panache than that incredible semi-final comeback against Barcelona.

For the hundreds of thousands of people who lined the streets of Merseyside, however, the team’s homecoming on Sunday was greeted with the sort of adulation expected of a city where fans have long lived by the maxim that football is more important than life or death.

A sea of red swelled the route of an open-top bus that carried the triumphant team and their manager, Jürgen Klopp. Hours earlier, Klopp and the Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, had emerged from a plane at Liverpool’s John Lennon airport bearing the European Cup following their 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

“Now we won something and we will carry on,” Klopp said of a result that put paid to lingering suggestions that the German was the unluckiest manager in football after a run of six final defeats.

Some fans scaled street furniture to get a better view.

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Some fans scaled street furniture to get a better view. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

For the majority of the players, it was their first major trophy, coming after they lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid a year ago and Manchester City pipped them to the Premier League title by one point last month.

“We want to win things, 100%. I’ve said it, this is only the start for this group,” Klopp added.

After starting out under sunshine at 4pm in south Liverpool, the bus carrying the team wound its way north past fans who waved flags and let off red smoke flares. Some onlookers hung off traffic lights and signs and gazed down from roofs and balconies as the parade snaked along the city’s Unesco world heritage site waterfront.

The crowd was put at 250,000 by Joe Anderson, the city’s directly elected mayor, who tweeted: “To have ended the fantastic season they have had without a trophy would have been a travesty, massive respect to a great team with much more to come. City of Liverpool benefits massively.”

But while the result elevates the status of Klopp – already adored as a force of nature by Liverpool fans – to that of deity in the eyes of the most faithful, older Liverpool legends were also basking in the glory.

For some – perhaps those unfamiliar with his guest rap on New Order’s 1990 track World in Motion – John Barnes was a revelation in front of thousands at a fans’ event in Madrid before the final, as the former Liverpool winger performed a rendition of the Sugarhill Gang’s seminal hip-hop track Rapper’s Delight.

In an echo of some of the circuitous routes to Madrid taken by countless Liverpool and Spurs fans, Barnes also revealed how he had slept outside Barcelona airport following a marathon detour from a family holiday in Greece.

“I got to Barcelona at 2am, I had to get a train to Madrid, it was not until 5am, the train station is not open until 4am,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “From 2am until 4am I was lying on the floor outside the train station with a lot of homeless people before the station opened.”

Another image that was to become one of the defining moments of the weekend was that of Henderson embracing his father after collecting his winner’s medal. The Liverpool captain was overcome with emotion as he hugged Brian Henderson, a retired police officer who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2013, and who has revealed how his son told him at the age of 10 that he would one day play in a Champions League final.

“He’s done it not once but twice,” he said. “And he’s won one. I’m absolutely delighted for him.”

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