Liverpool had almost managed to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in 2002 however, failed to complete the deal due to politics and financial burdens.
Former Liverpool coach, Gerard Houllier, in an interview with Goal, revealed that The Reds were very close to signing one of the best players in the world back in 2002. However, due to his wages and politics surrounding his high salary, the move was never solidified and Manchester United were able to sign the talent. This of course would become a heavy blow for Liverpool as Ronaldo would go onto win the Premier League three times with The Red Devils and even win the coveted UEFA Champions League in 2008.
The shocking news of the possible transfer came about when Houllier’s assistant, Phil Thompson, revealed that the Merseyside team was close to signing the Portuguese player back in ’02 but he never revealed the whole story and thus Houllier filled in the details as to why the move flopped and how he ended up with their arch-rivals.
He says that one of the reasons as to why the winger was not signed was due to the skepticism of the board. They were not fully convinced that the then 17-year-old would live up to the hype surrounding him. This also led to further political complications with his pay. A young player who was yet to prove himself in England could not be making the same amount of money as the recently Ballon d’Or winning Michael Owen.
“We had been following Cristiano for a year, but it was dragging a bit because at the salary level it was more demanding than what we could do for Ronaldo.
“You have to know that there was a salary policy at Liverpool and Michael Owen had just won the Ballon d’Or. You couldn’t give a 17-year-old a higher salary than him.”
According to the former Liverpool manager, there is no way the board was going to pay more money to Ronaldo than Owen. This left the deal hanging for a while and United took their chance. After a friendly match against Lisbon, Sporting won 3-1, and all the players agreed that Ronaldo had to be bought by United. The simultaneous situations at the two clubs led to United picking up the player and the rest is history.
Houllier believes that English football made Ronaldo as good as he is now and even though he could not have him at Liverpool, the two share a good bond. The former manager reckons that playing under David Beckham helped Ronaldo further his game style a lot and his natural professionalism and hunger to be the best eventually earned him five Ballon d’Or.
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