Andy Robertson: Liverpool left-back on cusp of Scottish football greatness in Champions League

Did you know, nine years ago Andy Robertson was turning out as an amateur at Queen’s Park, and this weekend he’ll walk out in his third Champions League final?

Of course you did. The rise of the Scotland captain from his Celtic release and Spiders spell to the top of the game is so widely told it’s become a trope for Liverpool’s success. It’s bound to be mentioned again during the TV and radio coverage when Jurgen Klopp’s side match up to Real Madrid in Paris for European football’s ultimate prize.

Yet, for all it’s cliched repetition, Robertson's rise is still very much worthy of mention.

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It is also far from over yet.

Success in football has many standards; defying the odds, forging a career, personal accolades and achievements – but the measure of silverware is one particularly definitive marker.

A win over Real Madrid would take Liverpool to six European Cups and Champions Leagues – joint-second of the most successful sides in the competition behind their opponents’ record-setting 13. It would also place Scotland’s left-back in the upper band of decorated players of the country’s national game.

Scottish winners of the trophy are few and far between. Robertson is already one, but multiple winners are an esteemed bunch he is potentially one day away from joining.

Before him, only six Scottish footballers have played and won a European Cup final more than once, while another, John O’Hare, picked up his second medal as an unused substitute for Nottingham Forest.

Robertson helped Liverpool past Villarreal in the semi-final to set-up their shot at glory in Paris. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Scots also ran through Nottingham Forest’s two-time tournament winners in that 1980s era when Kenny Burns, John McGovern and John Robertson picked up their two medals and there is an Anfield Scots legacy already. Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen all won the European cup three times, leading the Reds through a period of continental dominance in the late 1970s and early-eighties. Klopp’s side are widely regarded as the best team on Merseyside since, fortified again with a Scottish strength.

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Since then, it’s been sporadic, single Scots sprinkled through English squads – plus Paul Lambert at Borussia Dortmund – but Robertson can add his name to the brief list beyond the one-off wins of Archie Gemmill, Gary Gillespie, Steve Nicol and Darren Fletcher on his weekend in Paris.

These two teams have met at this stage before, in 2018. They’ve met in the final in this same city before too, when Liverpool triumphed back in 1981 – a success built from that Scottish foundation of Souness, Hansen and Dalglish.

Liverpool have won six Champions League trophies across the competition's various incarnations as the European Cup and UCL. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Matching the achievements of such exalted company would immediately lift Robertson to a place amongst Scotland’s greats – if he wasn’t already as national team captain and Hall of Fame entrant.

Currently it is difficult to see a rival for his position anywhere in world football, never mind amongst those on these shores, past or present. Quick, direct and accurate, his are attributes which could slot into any team – domestic or international – in the world.

He often does. The modern metric of FIFA computer game rating already identifies Robertson as the stand-out in his field to the youth and gaming community. An ‘Ultimate Team’ rank of 87 marks his online trading card in demand, bettering the personal scores for Jordi Alba of Barcelona, French full-backs Lucas Digne and Theo Hernandez plus Marcos Acuna, Raphael Guerreiro and Luke Shaw. It is also well clear of Real Madrid’s Ferland Mendy, his opposite number in Saturday’s final.

The Madrid reign of Marcelo, the decorated Brazilian standard-bearer of the attacking left-back position, is on the wane at age 34 – six years Robertson’s senior though with four UCL titles and just as many Club World Cups to his name.

Scotland's captain Andy Robertson. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

At 28, seeking his second win in each competition, the Glasgow-born defender is at the peak of his own powers, whether that be racing up the left-wing to deliver crosses, assist goals and score a few himself, or haring back to hound attackers out of possession with a relentless stamina that has clocked up 118 appearances for club and country in the last two years. Three Euro 2020 appearances and an English Premier League win with Liverpool were included among them, and this week match numbers 119 and 120 will prove pivotal in Robertson’s success story.

A World Cup play-off semi-final at Hampden against Ukraine on Wednesday night follows Real Madrid at the Stade de France – both matches either rearranged or rerouted due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, who he will lead Scotland out against on Wednesday night. Rather than play in St Petersburg, where this final was due to be played, there’s a quicker turnaround and journey to head back to Glasgow for the make-or-break match which could decide Scotland’s World Cup fate and Robertson’s long-term legacy.

Last summer Robertson became the first Scotland captain in almost a quarter of a century to lead the team at a major tournament. Help Steve Clarke defeat Ukraine, and then Wales, to qualify for Qatar and he’d become the ninth Scotland captain of a World Cup squad – an accolade again shared with Souness and other revered Scottish names like Billy Bremner and Danny McGrain. Neither of them won a European Cup though – but Bremner did lose the 1974 final in Paris – and the opportunity which presents itself to Robertson is one of historic football significance if Liverpool, and Scotland, can pull it off.

Two Champions League medals and a World Cup qualification would add another incredible chapter to Robertson’s remarkable rise, from his Celtic release and amateur resilience to the very top of European football with Liverpool and Scotland, and set the modern-day marker Scottish footballers’ success is measured against.

Andy Robertson of Liverpool lifts the Champions League Trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on June 01, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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