With transfer speculation over who will arrive at Liverpool this summer reaching fever pitch, we take a look at proposed deals – of which some came as close as medicals at the club – that thankfully didn’t materialise.
Manager: Martin O’Neill
When Rafa Benitez was unceremoniously sacked as Liverpool manager in 2010, Martin O’Neill was quickly installed as the “bookies favourite”. The Northern Irishman had long been touted as a future Liverpool manager, despite favouring a brand of football distinctly at odds with the club’s pass and move tradition.
Liverpool fans needn’t have worried, though. O’Neill was overlooked for the job, and Roy Hodgson was given the job instead. Dodging one bullet but taken out by another!
Goalkeeper: Wayne Hennessey
Liverpool have been linked with a whole host of number two keepers as understudy to Pepe Reina over the years, but perhaps the least inspiring was Wayne Hennessey. As the Daily Mail reported, Liverpool were keen to sign the Welsh keeper, but Wolves’ £7m valuation put a stop to the deal.
During the 2011–12 season, Hennessey played in goal as Wolves went a club record 30 consecutive league games without keeping a clean sheet. Wolves have just been related to the third tier.
Perhaps Brad Jones isn’t so bad after-all?
Right-Back: Luke Young
2010 was a vintage year for Liverpool being linked with rubbish players. Due to a combination of the club’s financial plight and Roy Hodgson’s insatiable appetite for ineptitude, the nightmare-inducing names came thick and fast.
Unfortunately, some of those names did eventually make it onto the back of red shirts, but believe it or not, things could have been even worse. Despite having Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly at his disposal, the Hodge was keen on bringing in Luke Young, prompting the BBC to report that the Villa right-back was “poised” for a move to Liverpool.
“Poised” was an unusual word to associate with Young, who was more often described as “wobbly”, “flappable”, or simply “shite”.
Centre-back: Alex Pearce
Only a few weeks ago, Liverpool fans were getting into a panic at the prospect of Alex Pearce joining on a free after the Reading defender was photographed in a Mayfair nightclub with Ian Ayre.
What were they doing together? Why in a night club? And how drunk do you need to be to think Alex Pearce is good enough for Liverpool?
These questions remain unanswered, but having since signed Kolo Toure on a free from Man City, it now looks like Ayre and Pearce were simply having it large Ibiza-style.
Centre-back: Scott Dann
At one point it looked almost certain that Scott Dann would be joining the Reds. Liverpool born and a boyhood fan, links with the Birmingham centre back were so strong, Jan Molby felt compelled to write in the Echo, “Dann is a very steady defender in the Jamie Carragher mould. He doesn’t venture into areas where you don’t want your centre-backs to be.”
Where most fans didn’t want Dann to be was anywhere near Anfield. Molby went on to write, “Cahill’s got more potential than Dann to develop into a Rio Ferdinand type centre-back.” True, that, but Cahill also had more potential to grow wings and literally fly to Stamford Bridge than Scott Dann had of playing anything like Rio Ferdinand. Dann now plays his football at the bottom of the Championship with Blackburn.
Left-back: Lucas Neil
When Lucas Neill opted to join West Ham ahead of Liverpool in 2007, it was, of course, for ‘purely footballing reasons’. Having agreed wages of £70,000 a week with the Hammers, Neill went on to claim in the media that Liverpool hadn’t made him feel wanted, and that he didn’t even get to speak to Rafa Benítez.
Then chief executive Rick Parry was clearly perturbed by Neill’s claims, telling the Daily Mail, “I don’t know who was on the other end of the telephone talking to Rafa when I was sat next to him, but I’m quite sure it was Lucas Neill.”
Parry went on to add, “The decision by Lucas Neill not to accept our terms after we agreed a fee with Blackburn will bemuse many fans.” Don’t worry about it, Rick.
Right-Midfield: Clint Dempsey
When Liverpool missed out on signing Clint Dempsey last summer, many Liverpool fans were left furious. Having already shipped Carroll out on loan to West Ham (we really do owe West Ham, don’t we?) Brendan Rodgers was left with only Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini as strikers, and many doubted the squad contained enough goals.
Dempsey had just scored 17 league goals and been voted Fulham’s Player of the Season, but at 29, FSG weren’t prepared to meet the London club’s valuation. Cue hysteria.
As it turned out, Liverpool brought in the free-scoring Daniel Sturridge for a snip in January, recorded their highest goals for tally in four years and recouped half of the cash wasted on Carroll after his loan was a success.
Dempsey scored 7 goals in 29 appearances for Spurs and is now 30 years old. Silly FSG.
Centre-Midfield: Paul Scharner
Another player to be linked in the year of pain and suffering was Wigan’s Paul Scharner. The Austrian was out of contract, leading his somewhat optimistic agent Valentin Hobel to claim his client would be charged with filling the void in defensive midfield left by Javier Mascherano’s impending departure. Paul Scharner. Javier Mascherano. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.
OK? Moving on then. According to Hobel, Hodgson thought, “…that Paul’s strengths in midfield are better than his attributes in central defence.” and added “Roy Hodgson and Paul Scharner – this is a special relationship,”
I for one, am glad it was never consummated.
Centre-Midfield: Lee Bowyer
Having agreed a £9m fee and wages of around £35,000 per week, Gerard Houllier suddenly pulled the plug on a deal to sign Lee Bowyer from Leeds in 2002.
The club issued a statement saying, “Manager Gerard Houllier was not convinced the player had either the hunger or desire to play for the club, qualities which are essential for any Liverpool player.” and the player went on to sign for West Ham. The Hammers were relegated and released Bowyer on a free.
In dodging a Bowyer-shaped bullet, however, Houllier waded straight into a shower of transfer machine-gun fire and signed Bruno Cheyrou, El Hadji Diouf, Alou Diarra, Patrice Luzi and Salif Diao instead.
Left-Midfield: Matthew Taylor
Another bastion of averageness who could have been a Red in 2010 was Bolton Wanderers’ Matthew Taylor. After failing to feature in either of Bolton’s two opening games, the Metro claimed that the race for his signature had been “joined by Liverpool”, with Hodgson believing the former Portsmouth player to be “the perfect foil for right-back Glen Johnson in marauding forward from the full-back positions.”
Instead he joined West Ham where he proved to be a mediocre foil for Julien Faubert.
Striker: Carlton Cole
As if Roy Hodgson hadn’t already done enough damage with the signings of Joe Cole and Paul Konchesky, the now England ‘manager’ attempted to swap Lucas Leiva for Carlton Cole as the 2010 transfer deadline loomed. The Guardian reported that Ryan Babel was also offered, and flew to London in a helicopter before eventually Tweeting, “I’m going no where. LFC all the way. YNWA!!”
All Hodgson’s signing have now been moved on from Anfield, including Konchesky, who was brought in for £3.5m plus two academy prospects, Lauri Dalla Valle and Alex Kacaniklic.
Kacaniklic is now a full international for Sweden. Konchesky is still Konchesky.
Striker: Kenwyne Jones
Rafa Benitez’s hunt for Kenwyne Jones lasted over three years, ultimately ending in failure – or success, depending on how you look at it. Liverpool’s pursuit of the target man was first reported in 2007, with Roy Keane aware of intrest, “If he continues in the form he’s in I would expect some calls when the transfer window opens.”
The former United player then forgot who he was talking about, saying, “the fact he’s also quick, has a good touch and is scoring goals makes it obvious that people will identify him.”
It seems interest in the player was genuine and Jones was still being linked with a loan to Liverpool in 2010, when an angry Steve Bruce was moved to say, “I find it hugely disrespectful. The way they think they have got a chance to get him on loan is total nonsense.”
Jones moved to Stoke City for a club record fee of £8 million the following summer, and still fails to score goals there today.
After spending a season as back-up at Real Madrid, Michael Owen was ready to bless us with his presence on Merseyside once again. Being a World Cup year, Owen was keen to cement his starting place with his one-true-love and favoured a move back to to Anfield.
It wasn’t only the Reds who were interested, though, with both Newcastle and Everton also keen on bringing Owen back to England.
“Just before I arrived home, David Moyes rang to see if there was a chance of getting me to Goodison Park and to wish me luck if not.” Owen told the BBC, who reported that Owen had also met with Rafa Benitez for two and a half hours – the longest period of time anyone has been known to endure in the recently retired player’s company.
Rafa didn’t bite, and Owen instead signed for Newcastle whose calamitous chairman Freddy Shepherd declared: “Bringing Michael here will rank alongside the signing of Alan Shearer as my proudest moment at Newcastle.”
When Liverpool failed to sign Connor Wickham in the summer of 2011, the general consensus was that we’d let a future star slip through our hands. Worse still, Sunderland used the money we gave them for Jordan Henderson to sign the Ipswich forward themselves.
Wickham has scored two goals in two seasons for Sunderland so far.
Yet another of Roy Hodgson’s attempts to troll Liverpool fans in real life came in the form of his pursuit of Stoke target man, James Beattie.
According to Metro, Beattie was “not seen as a long-term option, but the new Reds manager is thought to be prepared to risk the ire of the Anfield faithful by signing a player he believes will have an instant impact on the squad.”
Beattie now plays his football with Accrington Stanley, where he is player-coach. Exactly.
So next time Liverpool miss out on a ‘transfer target’ just think, it could have been worse!