Liverpool have signed several top-quality players over the years as is part and parcel of being such an important and influential club. But today we’re looking at the ones that slipped through the net – the deals that couldn’t get done. Here, Express Sport counts down five players who almost signed for Liverpool football club during their illustrious time at the top.
Liverpool were looking at acquiring Cristiano Ronaldo’s services in 2003 while he was playing out in Portugal for Sporting Lisbon. However, then-manager Gerrard Hollier deemed that the 18-year-old’s wage demands were too high.
“I saw [Ronaldo] in the Toulon under-21 tournament and we went for him,” he said. “But we had a wage scale and we weren’t paying the sort of salary he wanted. Then Manchester United played a friendly against Sporting Lisbon and all their boys said to Sir Alex Ferguson: ‘You have to sign him’. But I agreed with not breaking the wage structure. I thought it would cause problems in our dressing room.”
That same year he put pen to paper on a long-term deal with reigning Premier League champions Manchester United and the rest is history.
Dele Alli came close to signing for Liverpool in 2015 but chose Tottenham instead. At that time, he was a promising up-and-comer plying his trade with MK Dons and had caught the eye of the Reds’ scouts.
A deal was on the table for him to sign with Liverpool before Tottenham had even made an approach but in the end, Spurs came through with a more appealing offer.
Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool’s manager at the time, explains how it all unfolded. “We thought we had him at Liverpool,” said Rodgers.
“The manager of MK Dons actually drove him down to us. They played a game on the Saturday and we were playing West Ham on the Sunday. We’d had contact with Dele, it was all above board, I was speaking with Karl Robinson and I spoke to Dele and his adoptive parents.
“Karl did really well with him and he came to me and said: ‘I’ve got a really exciting player, I’d love to see him at Liverpool’.
“I spent a couple of hours in a hotel room with him and he wanted to come to Liverpool. It was all about getting the deal done with the club but unfortunately it never got done.
“On Saturday evening we thought it had got done but eventually he went to Tottenham, which was frustrating and disappointing. He’s done really well there.”
Budget constraints got in the way of a deal to bring one of the greatest fullbacks of all time, Dani Alves, to Anfield in 2006. The club was struggling financially and only had £10million to spend on a new right winger.
Alves and Dirk Kuyt were the two main options to fill the void and former manager Rafa Benitez opted to go with the latter. Unfortunately, due to Liverpool’s financial woes, Benitez wasn’t able to bring them both in. Alves signed for Barcelona two years later and carved out a legendary career with the Catalonians stretching for almost a decade.
“We looked at Dani Alves, but he was a right full-back,” said Benitez. “So you have to make a decision, whether to sign a player who can play as a striker, second striker and right winger, or you can go for a full-back, Brazilian, playing in Spain to play as your right winger. It’s a big risk.”
While Benitez’s decision to sign Kuyt over Alves wasn’t awful, he surely regrets choosing £17m flop Alberto Aquilani instead of David Silva. In 2009, Benitez was tasked with finding Xabi Alonso’s replacement after he had signed for Real Madrid in the summer.
Silva’s boyhood club Valencia wanted £30m for him, the same amount Liverpool had received from Real Madrid for Alonso, but Benitez deemed him too expensive and signed Aquilani from Roma for almost half the price instead.
Silva went on to sign for Manchester City the following season where he won four Premier League’s and established himself as one of the best players in England’s top flight during a sensational 10-year stint.
Meanwhile, Aquilani played just 28 times for Liverpool over two forgettable seasons.
Diego Costa turned down the opportunity to join Liverpool in 2013 in order to remain at Atletico Madrid. The Reds had matched the Brazilian’s £21m release clause in his contract but Costa decided to stay put after working so hard to establish himself in Atleti’s first team.
“I was close to leaving Atletico,” Costa told the Sunday People. “Liverpool are a great team, but after fighting so hard and overcoming difficulties to get my place at Atletico, how could I leave? I thought it was very important to keep growing with Atletico and to play there for many years.”
Costa ended up signing for Chelsea a year later where he produced some of the best football of his career. Over three Premier League seasons, he bagged 52 goals in 89 games and lifted the title twice.
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