Bitter loss but Reds are back

EVEN now there's a bitter taste. Going on four days later. With an extra (non-publication) day to think about it, an extra day for it to rankle. Wesak Day! Where's the karma when you need it?

When it comes to Sergio (asterisks deleted) Ramos, it is conspicuous by its absence.

He robbed the world of one of its great sporting spectacles, cheating a global audience of hundreds of millions out of a potential classic. And in Madrid he's being hailed as a hero.

Not since Harald Schumacher karate-chopped France's Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup semifinal has a big game been so outrageously distorted. A
French poll put the German keeper ahead of Hitler as the country's "most hated man".

On a sad night for humanity as well as football, the other villains belong to a very different category – the sad, brainless lowlifes who threatened to kill Loris Karius. From the sanctity of their keyboards and behind their shield of anonymity, of course.

Don't these idiots know what happened to another German keeper who worried about silly mistakes? Former Barcelona and Germany international Robert Enke threw himself under a train.

Karius is not known to suffer from depression as Enke did, but he will be tested now. He did not make those errors deliberately and deserves sympathy, not death threats.

Thankfully, the overwhelming majority are wishing him well and hoping he can recover for he will have to live with this night for the rest of his life. Every time, decades from now, when people spot him they will whisper, 'Isn't that the guy who …"

If we treat Karius not just as a footballer but as a human being, then we have to do the same with Ramos. And the view is not favourable.

It was an Everton fan, of all people, who said: "He's the sort who would turn off your life support to charge his phone." It's hard to improve on that.

The centreback's record precedes him: all-time high number of red cards in La Liga and Champions League as well as internationals for Spain. But we know that doesn't tell the half of it.

It's his cry-baby antics, his outrageous diving, arrant feigning of injury to get opponents sent off that make him so despised. He was at it again in Kiev with Mane and also blatantly elbowed Karius minutes before the keeper's first brain fade.

It has to be said that without deciphering Ramos's brain we don't know for absolutely certain that he intended to injure Salah – but the armlock is pretty conclusive evidence. The pros say you never see it on a football field even in the worst entanglements.

It was conclusive enough for almost all non-Madrid commentators to come as close as they dared to saying it was deliberate. From this vantage point, he crossed the line - and it worked. At a stroke, Liverpool's star and main threat was taken out. Seldom can a big game have changed so dramatically.

To the apologists who say Ramos is a man to have on your side, I say, perhaps - in a dirty war. But football is only a game. Beautiful? If it's not beautiful, it's not worth playing. After all, if it's not to entertain, what is the point?

Gareth Bale's first goal was certainly a thing of beauty and has to be one of the greatest ever scored anywhere. Real may have won even if Salah had played 90 minutes, but now there's a certain hollowness to their victory. They, too, have lost something – at least in the eyes of the rest of us.

Liverpool lost a final, yes, but by now they'll realise they had an incredible season – way beyond expectations. And in Kiev, the back four held up well with Dejan Lovren and Andrew Robertson making last-ditch tackles of the highest class.

Sadio Mane was a gallant lone ranger up front but in the end, their lack of depth caught up with them and once Salah departed they had no chance – not with a bench that was no more than a rickety plank.

Klopp must finally admit defeat over the goalkeepers although what Karius experienced was not so much poor keeping as a meltdown. Now at least the debate is over – a new glove man is desperately needed.

And Liverpool fans have been given a timely pick-me-up with the news that Brazilian holding midfielder Fabinho has signed for what looks a bargain £40m (RM211m) from Monaco. With bids for other big names in the offing, there can be no doubt that the Reds are back in the big time and FSG mean to keep them there.

Yes, "moving on" and "coming back stronger" are the phrases you always hear after a disaster. And we've heard both plenty of times this week. We certainly hope that applies to both Salah and Karius, but the German surely cannot be first-choice for Liverpool again.

Although history is written by the victors and bad guys often win, there is a greater game going on here. It is called life. And being called "a cancer on the game", as Ramos has been by many critics if not by Klopp, as some have claimed, suggests a lowest of low places for him in the greater scheme of things.

In contrast, Salah is reaching exalted levels. He has come to mean so much to so many – in the Middle East as well as on Merseyside – way beyond the touchline.

Mumin Khan, CEO at Liverpool's Abdullah Quilliam mosque, told The Independent: "He is an excellent role model who is breaking barriers about the negative perception of Muslims and Islam."

Not only is he a superstar but he's become a beacon of hope for improving relations between the faiths, winning hearts and minds with his humility, generosity and all-round decency.

Countless film crews and journalists made the pilgrimage to his village of Nagrig in Egypt on the eve of the game. As well as chronicling his rise from humble beginnings, all declared him a force for good.

Now, thanks to Ramos, his World Cup and the hopes of 100 million Egyptians hang by a thread. All this and Real Madrid are still celebrating with their skipper an apparently karma-free zone.

But let us end on a positive note. Despite all this, Liverpool looked like they belonged on the big stage and next season with Fabinho, Naby Keita and possibly Nabil Fekir, they'll have a midfield to match the Fab Three. Yes, Kiev was a bitter night but all has not been lost.

* Bob's latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major book stores.