There were no regrets for Liverpool. They had got 97 points and, ultimately, cruelly, it was not enough. They could have done no more.
“People might say we could have done this or that but not really, I don't think [so],” said Jurgen Klopp. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”
His side had finished with nine consecutive wins and the third-highest points tally in English football history but not the trophy, medals or status as champions.
They beat Wolves. They were top for 21 minutes on the final day. Perhaps it was a microcosm of other times when hopes have been dashed, but this was their closest near miss yet. It was their most glorious league campaign since they were last champions in 1990 but, as in 1991, 2002, 2009 and 2014, they had to settle for second place.
“We gave everything,” said Mohamed Salah. “We got 97 points. We only lost one game all season.” It was another record of sorts. No team had previously completed a top-flight season with a solitary defeat and without becoming champions. Liverpool have become history-makers.
They can rue the finest of margins: when they lost at the Etihad Stadium, John Stones made a clearance when Sadio Mane’s effort was 11mm from crossing the goal-line. It was their lone loss.
The seven draws ultimately cost them; and yet four were against top-six peers, two more away at West Ham and Everton. It meant the sole dropped points at home to anyone outside the elite came when Leicester drew at Anfield. They have, in effect, completed the season without a bad result, but their rivals were freakishly good.
"When your opponent is [Manchester] City, it's difficult,” Klopp said. “They couldn't get rid of us and we couldn't get rid of them. We tried everything to make it as difficult as possible but not difficult enough.”
Those difficulties stretched to the last day. “A strange situation,” in Klopp’s words. His team were virtual leaders for 21 minutes, but reliant on another result. For 83 seconds, the script was perfect as City trailed. Anfield was animated.
“You can’t tell people to calm down,” Klopp said. False reports of other Brighton goals spread, but City levelled and pulled clear. Liverpool’s last effort was in vain.
It nevertheless produced distinctions, if not the major prize. There were awards for them, but not the one they wanted most. Alisson, who twice denied Diogo Jota, clinched the Golden Glove. Sadio Mane’s brace meant he and Salah, who returned after suffering concussion at Newcastle, shared the Golden Boot with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Trent Alexander-Arnold set a Premier League record for a defender with his 12th and 13th assists for Mane’s brace. His first cross flicked off Willy Boly and into Mane’s path. The winger was offside when he headed in the second. It mattered not.
The PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk also headed against the bar but this was more sedate and less spectacular than Tuesday’s demolition of Barcelona. Wolves’ Matt Doherty clipped the bar while Diogo Jota twice drew saves from Alisson.
The visitors finished seventh, the best of any promoted team for 18 years but their manager was impressed by the standards at the top. “It is amazing, this title race between City and Liverpool,” said Nuno Espirito Santo.
But someone had to lose the race. “Today feels not so good,” added Klopp. “Being second in the Premier League is not what I wanted but we have to see it as the first step for this team. Our target during the week was to get 97 points, we got that – that’s special. We want to write our own history and we did.”