Gerrard promises to bounce back

For Steven Gerrard (in pic), defeat was the nadir of a footballing life. "At the moment my heart is in two pieces and this is the lowest point of my career," said the midfielder, whose career has been scored more than most in peaks and troughs.

Unlike two years ago there was no need for emphatic declarations of loyalty with Chelsea in the background. Gerrard will, barring catastrophe, be at Anfield for the start of the season. "It's how you bounce back from setbacks that counts," he said. "The finals I've lost in my career have made me stronger as a person. We will be a better side for this.

"You know if you win you'll be on top of the world and if you lose you'll be right down there at the bottom. So it's about me and the team picking ourselves up and being better next season."

Rafael Benitez felt that the final offered Liverpool's new owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, a clear indication of what will be required to return the club to the pinnacle of the domestic and European game. The manager said the club would require "two steps at a time" in the transfer market if they were to catch up with the likes of Milan, Chelsea and Manchester United and challenge for honours.

The Rossoneri had not yet returned to the dressing room from their delirious lap of honour when Benitez turned his attentions to Liverpool's future by implying that his current squad was already performing to its limits and reinforcements were required. "My first idea is to support my players, who worked really hard and did their best," he said. "That is clear. Afterwards you need to think about the future and we know we need to improve. Maybe, if we do, we can be contenders.

"I hope I do get the (financial) backing. At the moment it is easy to see that my players cannot achieve more things than we have with this team. If we want to be closer to Manchester United or to Chelsea, and get this far in the Champions League again, we may need to take two steps at a time. You could see the difference (between Liverpool and Milan). They had players who could be isolated and alone, but you could see what they can do. They have a lot of players with a lot of quality."

Where Milan boasted a creative midfielder of Kaka's calibre and a predatory striker in Filippo Inzaghi, the Premiership side were too gummy in the last third to damage the Italians. It is a problem that has undermined them all season.

"We had some chances in the first half and we were controlling almost everything," added Benitez. "They crossed two or three times and Jose Reina caught the ball easily, but we were in command other than that. But, in that situation, you need to take your chances and score goals. When you see the quality of players they (Milan) have, we have to think about improving. But we need to take more than one step at a time."

Dominic Fifield � Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007