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One that got away: Liverpool and Cristiano Ronaldo

This article forms part of our The Ones That Got Away feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at players linked with moves in the past, and see how they would have made an impact had they signed for the interested side.

Cristiano Ronaldo stands one goal away from reaching a century for Portugal, following his late intervention in Portugal’s Euro 2020 qualifying win in Luxembourg last Sunday. [via Sky Sports on YouTube]

The 34-year-old has enjoyed abundant team and individual success throughout his career – a European Championship triumph with his national team, five Champions Leagues, four FIFA Club World Cups, six league titles across three countries and five Ballon D’Or prizes, to name just some of his haul. [via TransferMarkt]

In 2003, he came to the Premier League when joining Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24m, as per The Telegraph. He could easily have ended up in another part of north-west England.

Many years later, Gerard Houllier revealed to the Liverpool Echo that he had the chance of signing an 18-year-old Ronaldo for Liverpool when he was the Anfield club’s manager.

The Frenchman had spotted the youngster’s talents at the Toulon Under-21 tournament and the Reds went in pursuit of him, but backed out of the deal after hearing of his wage demands, which they deemed excessive. [via Liverpool Echo]

While Ronaldo instead went to Manchester United that summer, Liverpool proceeded to sign another winger in Harry Kewell, a £5m capture from Leeds (as per BBC). The Australian may have won the Champions League and FA Cup during his time at Anfield, but could only manage a return of 16 goals in 139 appearances for the Reds.

Over at Old Trafford, Ronaldo scored almost twice that amount in the 2007/08 Premier League season alone and won three league titles and the Champions League before a then-world record £80m move to Real Madrid in 2009, as per The Telegraph.

He would cement his place in Bernabeu folklore by winning four more Champions League titles and becoming the club’s all-time record scorer, with an eventual tally of 451 goals for Los Blancos before moving to Juventus in 2018.

The Liverpool Echo reported how Phil Thompson, Houllier’s assistant at Anfield, told of how would have been “anarchy” at the club if they had met Ronaldo’s wage demands, which were said to be far higher than those of French forwards Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Anthony Le Tallec, who had just signed for the Reds.

Sinama-Pongolle scored nine goals in 65 games for Liverpool, with Le Tallec managed one goal in 32 appearances.

Liverpool’s conservative approach in the transfer market in the early 2000s seems a world away from the current climate under Fenway Sports Group (formerly New England Sports Ventures), owners of the club since 2010.

The Reds’ American owners haven’t been afraid to stump up whatever it takes to get some major signings over the line, with £75m paid to Southampton for Virgil van Dijk (as per BBC) and £66.9m invested in Alisson (as per The Guardian).

With the pair being named the best players in their respective positions in UEFA’s 2018/19 awards as well as making the shortlist for this year’s Ballon D’Or, following the roles they played in Liverpool’s Champions League triumph last season, that investment has been justified.

FSG were willing to go all-in to land the defender and goalkeeper who would contribute to the Premier League’s best defence in 2018/19 and form part of a Champions League-winning team, spending whatever it took to ensure that Van Dijk and Alisson didn’t slip through the cracks.

By refusing to meet Ronaldo’s wage demands in 2003, Liverpool appeared to be settling for second best, a defeatist mentality which they must have come to regret as the Portugal star racked up one prize after another.

Had FSG been over the club 16 years ago, Ronaldo may well have graced the Anfield turf as a Kop favourite rather than as an opponent for the Reds’ rivals.

Liverpool fans, how big an error in judgement was it from the club to back out of the possible signing of Ronaldo in 2003? Would something like that have happened under FSG’s watch? Share your views in the comments section below!

One that got away: Liverpool and Cristiano Ronaldo
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Article title: One that got away: Liverpool and Cristiano Ronaldo

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