Liverpool have signed and produced some of the greatest players in the game, with Steven Gerrard, Kenny Dalglish, Luis Suarez and Ian Rush – to name just a few over the decades – which has led to the Reds being one of the most successful clubs in England and the most decorated English club in Europe.
It is hard to believe that Liverpool have made too many huge transfer blunders when they have been so successful, but they don’t always get it right, and they missed out on one of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch before he became a household name.
The late, great Gerard Houllier – who managed Liverpool between 1998 and 2004 – admitted that the Merseyside club were keen to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003 after his impressive start at Sporting Lisbon, but they were forced to abandon their £4m deal for the superstar due to the Reds’ strict wage structure.
The legendary Reds manager told the Liverpool Echo in 2017: “I saw him in the Toulon Under-21 tournament and we went for him. But we had a wage scale and we weren’t paying the sort of salary he wanted.”
Ronaldo then signed for Liverpool’s bitter rivals Manchester United a few months later for just £12.24m, going on to score 143 goals and deliver 62 assists in 338 appearances across two spells at Old Trafford, winning one Champions League crown, three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and three League cups with the Red Devils.
The 37-year-old – who was dubbed “magic” by Eusebio and an “alien” by ex-Real Madrid team-mate Pepe – has had one of the most decorated careers in world football, winning five Ballon d’Or and breaking the FIFA record for most career goals when he netted his 806th in March this year.
There is no doubt that Liverpool supporters will imagine what could have happened if Ronaldo had signed for them instead of United nearly two decades ago. It could’ve changed football as we know it today if he had made the move to Merseyside instead, as his impact could have changed the course of history for both Liverpool and their Manchester arch-rivals.
It’s fair to say that Ronaldo will be the ultimate one that got away from Liverpool, as United’s period of dominance and success in the 2000s could have been drastically different if the Portuguese superstar had come to Anfield instead.