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Gary Neville defends calling Chelsea 'blue billion-pound bottlejobs' claiming they played Liverpool's reserves

Virgil van Dijk headed in Liverpool's extra-time winner to condemn Chelsea to a record sixth straight domestic cup final defeat; Gary Neville: "Chelsea needed to leave that pitch with no regrets. They had to grab the moment but they shrunk"

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Gary Neville explains his comments made about Chelsea after they lost the Carabao Cup to Liverpool.

Gary Neville has doubled down on labelling Chelsea as "blue billion-pound bottlejobs", while Jamie Carragher believes the tag will stick until the club win something big.

Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 in Sunday's Carabao Cup final after Virgil van Dijk headed in the winner after 118 minutes of drama, having earlier seen a goal controversially ruled out.

"In extra-time it's been Klopp's kids against the blue, billion-pound bottlejobs," said Neville on commentary after the Dutchman's goal.

Already deprived of Trent-Alexander Arnold, Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez, Liverpool won the final with a host of youngsters on the pitch after 18-year-old Jayden Danns, 19-year-olds James McConnell and Bobby Clark as well as Jarell Quansah (21) were thrown into the fray. Conor Bradley (20) had started the final in defence and Harvey Elliott (20) played the full 120 minutes.

In contrast, Chelsea fielded Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo - both of whom cost over £100m - in the centre of their midfield. Raheem Sterling (£50m) was in attack, while Mykhailo Mudryk, who cost £88.5m, and £52m Christopher Nkunku stepped off the bench.

Todd Boehly has spent over £1bn on players since taking charge of the club in the summer of 2022.

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Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino rejects Gary Neville's description of his players as 'blue billion-pound bottlejobs'

Responding to the comments, Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino said: "If you compare the age of the two groups, it's similar. I have a good relationship with Gary, I can respect his opinion. We made a few changes for extra-time, but we didn't keep the energy.

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"For sure I feel proud. They made a big effort. We have a young team, and nothing to compare with Liverpool because they finished with young players on the pitch. It's not fair to talk in this way, if he said that. We're going to keep being strong and believing in this project."

Speaking on Monday Night Football, Neville took up his right of reply to further explain what he meant by the comments shortly after Van Dijk's winning goal.

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Liverpool captain and goal scorer Virgil van Dijk praises the young players in the squad following the extra-time win in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea

"I'm not going to sit here and say it was an instinctive commentary moment. I mean it was instinctive as I didn't know what was going to happen in extra time. Peter [Drury] did about 30 seconds after the goal went in and Carra had about 25 seconds.

"If you heard my commentary of Chelsea during extra-time, I was getting angrier with them from the first minute to around two minutes to go.

"I could smell the fear in Chelsea when I noticed they were sitting off Liverpool. Why were they letting these young lads and Jurgen Klopp grow in confidence?

Chelsea have lost in each of their last three League Cup finals (2019, 2022 and 2024) – this after only losing two of their first seven finals in the competition between 1965 and 2015
Image: Chelsea have lost in each of their last three League Cup finals (2019, 2022 and 2024) – this after only losing two of their first seven finals in the competition between 1965 and 2015

"There was a chorus from the Liverpool fans for about five minutes because they could smell the blood and the fear in those blue shirts.

"At half-time, Mauricio Pochettino had to get the message into his players that they had 15 minutes to beat or not lose to a side that only had two players who would get into their starting XI - Luis Diaz and Virgil van Dijk.

"They needed to leave that pitch with no regrets. Chelsea had to grab the moment but they shrunk."

Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box
Image: Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box

Pochettino, who has now lost the three major finals he has reached while managing in England at both Chelsea and Tottenham, told his squad they needed to feel hurt by the setback.

The Argentine pointed to Liverpool's own progression under Klopp as an example for Chelsea to follow in the coming years.

Neville hopes Chelsea can swiftly erase the growing perception following six successive domestic cup final defeats, adding: "Maybe 'bottle' is a very strong word but playing with absolute fear, froze... whatever you want to call it, that's what we saw from Chelsea in extra-time [on Sunday].

Image: Mauricio Pochettino has only won one of his 14 games as a manager against Jürgen Klopp (D5 L8), going winless in eight matches since recording his only such victory (Spurs 4-1 Liverpool in October 2017).

"I don't want that tag to stick as there's a lot of talented young players there.

"I know there have been people say that Chelsea's team was younger than Liverpool's, but the idea of saying 'Klopp's kids' wasn't a reference to his side being younger.

"When Liverpool made those substitutions, I had to put my mic down and put my headset off and say to Carra that I didn't have a clue who was playing for them. There were three or four players I didn't know who they were.

"No word of a lie, they were playing against Liverpool's reserves and they didn't seize that moment. I got angry with them and that's why I felt I had to say what I said.

Conor Gallagher reacts after a missed Chelsea chance
Image: Conor Gallagher reacts after a missed Chelsea chance

"I don't think it suggests cowardice. Many a team I played in for England at tournaments were accused of bottling it.

"One of the greatest footballers of all time and greatest analysts of all time who I've got a huge respect for went for us like you wouldn't believe on the first day back during the Premier League season in 1995 - Alan Hansen.

"He said you couldn't win anything with kids and we were say there in training on the Monday morning, six of us... 19-20 years of age - not 24 or 25 - and we had one of the most respected people in football entitled to say what he said.

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Highlights from the Carabao Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool

"If we hadn't turned that around that season and won the double, it would've stuck with us. This is football at the highest level where you've got to perform under scrutiny.

"After the game, I didn't think it was a harsh word 'bottle' and I was only referring to the last 30 minutes of the match as I thought Chelsea did well in the first 90.

"When I heard after that Mauricio Pochettino said his team were playing for penalties, it almost cemented the thought in my mind that they did freeze.

Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring in extra time
Image: Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring in extra-time

"Whoever in a team that is playing against such a weakened Liverpool side with three kids on the pitch who did find it difficult in the last few minutes of normal time... why did they do what they did?

"Does it make it more difficult for Pochettino? That's not the reason why I said what I did. I'm here to work for Sky Sports to deliver lines that I feel instinctively and reflect the passion I have for football.

"Make no mistake, I didn't want Liverpool to lift that trophy so it's not like I was in a position of being biased against Chelsea."

Carra: Tag will stick as long as Chelsea don't win anything

Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time
Image: Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time

Jamie Carragher said on Monday Night Football:

"The criticism of Chelsea comes from how they allowed Liverpool to grow in confidence in extra-time.

"Chelsea had a team on the ropes hanging on for dear life and then two kids come on for Liverpool who are 19. Enzo Fernandez is a World Cup winner and Moises Caicedo is the most expensive player in British football.

"In extra-time, Chelsea played the way 90 per cent of teams play. Most teams think, 'we'd love to win it but let's make sure we don't lose it'. But the reason it was wrong was because Chelsea were playing against Liverpool's B team and they were hanging on from minute 69 to minute 90.

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The Liverpool players were breaking out the dance moves as they kicked off their celebrations in the dressing room following their Carabao Cup final win.

"The Liverpool players were doing stepovers and they shouldn't have been allowed to do that so that's where the criticism comes from.

"Gary called them billion-pound bottlejobs and unfortunately for Chelsea it's a great line and for as long as they don't win anything big, it's going to stick.

"I came into a Liverpool team in 1997. In 1996, they lost an FA Cup final to Manchester United. That team were christened the Spice Boys.

"Was that harsh? This was a team that had got to a cup final and challenged for the league title twice, two years in a row. That tag is still with that team today - the Spice Boys.

"This tag for Chelsea that Gary has given them will stick until they win something big. Whether they think it's right or wrong, it will stick, and they are the only ones who can change it."

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