Liverpool were not exactly short of talent in 2003 but a little-known Cristiano Ronaldo might, just might, have added a little something extra.
Well, well, well…how very different things could have been if Liverpool and Gerard Houllier made a swoop for Cristiano Ronaldo all those years ago.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Liverpool, 2003
Imagine, the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo for relative peanuts. Imagine, just imagine. Imagine being the man to turn down an opportunity to sign one of the greatest players to ever grace the game. Gerard Houllier must experience nightmares where the former Manchester United man just repeatedly screams “si” and spins around in his head all night.
The plucky winger had established himself in the Sporting Lisbon first-team when Liverpool were reportedly interested in 2003.
“I saw him in the Toulon Under-21 tournament and we went for him,” Houllier told the Liverpool Echo. “But we had a wage scale and we weren’t paying the sort of salary he wanted.”
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we would hazard a guess, knowing what he knows now, Houllier would go back and throw, literally chuck, money at Ronaldo; whatever he wanted; wherever he wanted it; whenever he wanted it.
Look away fans: Liverpool would sign Leeds United’s Harry Kewell instead.
“Maybe we would have won the title with Ronaldo, but we had Harry Kewell, who was outstanding at the time and was very hungry but got a bad injury,” Houllier said, presumably trying to justify his awful mistake.
“After that, he never had the same confidence, the same appetite.”
We are not quite sure it was just his appetite that separated the Australian from the Portuguese star.
Manchester United would later swoop in and sign the player from underneath Liverpool’s noses for a record £12.2 million. Phil Thompson reflected on the moment he found out: ”I was sitting in a lounge at Anfield having some lunch and looking at the big TV screen.
“Up came the news United had signed Ronaldo from Lisbon for £12.2m. Gerard and myself nearly choked on our food!”
Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most famous no.7, went on to win three Premier League titles, one Ballon d’Or and a Champions League with Manchester United before moving on to do truly remarkable things with Real Madrid.