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Jari Litmanen recalls “special” time with Liverpool and the one lingering regret

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It didn’t go quite as well as might have on an individual level, but the iconic Jari Litmanen still remembers with great happiness his short time at Liverpool.

The Finnish forward had long been linked with the Reds before we finally signed him at the start of 2001 and his experience and quality meshed well with Gerard Houllier’s squad which was young, hungry and talented.

Litmanen played in a handful of extremely memorable games and sealed plenty of silverware with the Reds despite only playing at Anfield for 18 months.

But for both him and the majority of Reds supporters, the one slight regret is always a puzzle: Why didn’t we see more of him?

“[When I] meet Liverpool fans, the first question is always: ‘Why didn’t you play more?’ I don’t know. Of course, it’s nice that they have a good memory of me as a player because that’s why I was there – to play as good as I can,” Litmanen told the club website.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 19, 2002: Liverpool's Jari Litmanen and AS Roma's Damiano Tommasi during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“There was a special feeling with me and the fans and the club because I was a fan of the club as well. That, of course, is special.”

Vital or high-class goals against the likes of City, Fulham and Roma made a favourite among supporters and our former No. 37 said he arrived at a great time, just as the Reds embarked on a cup final-winning spree.

“When I came we were just growing and I was there from January 1 [2001]. Just five months later we had won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup. So it was a really good time to come, to see Liverpool growing and growing further.

“We did really well in those one-and-a-half years and it’s really difficult to say what is the one [best] thing. It’s really difficult, even not possible. I saw it as a really good period, one-and-a-half years where I could play at the club I have loved. There was a really good squad, I loved to be there and play there.

Jari maintains he remains a Liverpool fan to this day, having a great affinity with the clubs he played for during his career such as Ajax and Barcelona.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 19, 2002: Liverpool's Jari Litmanen celebrates scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot against AS Roma after only six minutes during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. Also Steven Gerrard. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As such, he says he’s delighted the Reds have remained at Anfield – which is now set for a further expansion in the coming years.

Upon the Main Stand’s expansion he returned to Anfield and says the stadium is at the heart of everything the club stands for in his mind and is impressed at how the famous ground has developed.

“I still remember my stay at Liverpool in a positive way.

“Anfield is something special. I was so happy as a former player but also as a fan that we didn’t go to Stanley Park, to a new stadium, that we stayed at Anfield. That was a really good decision. Liverpool is Anfield. I visited Liverpool five years ago when the new stand was ready, that’s amazing.

“I remember those old houses behind were really close to the former Main Stand; now the houses are gone and this new stand is bigger, it’s so nice, there is so much space. It’s really lovely.

“Liverpool is Anfield and when you go there to watch a game or go to the stadium to see the pitch, you really feel there is something special. The history of the place, this is Liverpool.”

Perhaps he’ll be back in town again once we reach the 60,000 capacity threshold, then…and perhaps we’ll actually be allowed to fill it, too.

Litmanen remains an iconic figure of the game and of a portion of Liverpool’s history, a near-mythical player who just has one question mark hovering over him: why didn’t he play more?!

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