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Winger “begged” for £20m Liverpool move – “I was crying”

For many fans, Liverpool’s failed pursuit of Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka back in 2014 will have left a scar, which is clearly felt by the player too.

It has not always been as slick for the Reds in the transfer market, with the early years under Fenway Sports Group littered with failures.

Arguably, that came to a head in 2014, in the wake of Luis Suarez’s departure to Barcelona, when the club were spurned in their scattergun advances for Alexis Sanchez, Loic Remy and Wilfried Bony.

Free agent Samuel Eto’o was also considered, with enquiries made – unsurprisingly in vain – into Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao before Liverpool landed on Mario Balotelli.

There have been sagas since, and the rising influence of social media has deepened the impact on fans hungry for updates; there had been sagas before that, too.

With Mo Salah having swapped Basel for Chelsea in January 2014, the Reds focused on Dnipro winger Konoplyanka, but after days of talks and speculation, the plug was pulled by the Ukrainian club’s owner after a fee and personal terms were agreed.

“I was crying,” Konoplyanka has reflected in an interview with Weszlo.

Poland's Piotr Zielinski (left) and Ukraine's Yevhen Konoplyanka battle for the ball. (Picture by: Nick Potts / EMPICS Sport)

“A delegation of serious people from Liverpool came to Dnipropetrovsk. We ate dinner. ‘Deal done’, they said. They were to pay as much as [owner] Ihor Kolomoyskyi wanted.

“Martin Skrtel wrote me a message: ‘We are waiting for you’. Steven Gerrard also sent his blessing.

“I had to go to Kolomoyskyi. ‘Please, please, please, let me go, I will make my dream come true’, I begged.”

Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre had flown out to Dnipro in the belief that a deal could be sealed, but in a ridiculous turn of events, Kolomoyskyi delayed until the final hour before rejecting the transfer.

It was the very end of the January transfer window and the Reds were left without the mid-season addition they had hoped for in the final third.

While the campaign unfolded in dramatic fashion as Brendan Rodgers almost led Liverpool to their first-ever Premier League inspired by the efforts of Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, the Konoplyanka debacle left a bitter taste.

BASEL, SWITZERLAND - MAY 17: Sevilla's Konoplyanka arrives at Basel Airport ahead of the UEFA Europa League Final against Liverpool. (Pic by UEFA/Pool/Propaganda)

“Liverpool offered €25 million,” the winger, who went to play for Sevilla, Schalke and Shakhtar Donetsk before joining MKS Cracovia, said.

That fee, which was around £20 million, met Konoplyanka’s release clause, but Kolomoyskyi refused to sign the paperwork before the deadline passed.

“[It was] a lot [of money],” the now 32-year-old said. “Ihor Kolomoyskyi turned out to be unforgiving.”

Though Liverpool have moved onwards and upwards in the years since that failed pursuit, it is remarkable to hear the story from Konoplyanka’s perspective.

Sometimes, dealings between clubs are not as straightforward as hoped, though thankfully the landscape has since changed in Liverpool’s favour.

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