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25th Jun 2017

Former Liverpool CEO reveals the big players the club chose not to sign

"Listen, it’s always easy with hindsight. You learn from mistakes"

Robert Redmond

“Listen, it’s always easy with hindsight. You learn from mistakes.”

Liverpool were in a position of strength in the summer of 2002. After winning three trophies the previous year, the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and the League Cup, the club ended the 2001/02 season in second place, ahead of bitter rivals Manchester United for the first time in the Premier League era.

They went into the transfer market looking to bolster their squad ahead of a potential title challenge. However, things didn’t go to plan. Liverpool signed Bruno Cheyrou, El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao, and all three failed to make a positive impact.

They would finish fifth and within a year manager Gerard Houllier was replaced by Rafa Benitez.

Rick Parry was Liverpool’s chief executive at the time, and has been talking about some of the players could have signed instead. According to Parry, Liverpool chose not to sign Nicolas Anelka on a permanent deal in 2002, after the French striker spent half of the previous season on-loan at Anfield, and also missed out on Damien Duff.

The Irish winger would join Chelsea from Blackburn Rovers the following summer. While, a few years later, Liverpool would also lose out on Dani Alves.

“Listen, it’s always easy with hindsight. You learn from mistakes,” Parry said on BBC radio.

“Two players we were looking at. One was Nicolas Anelka who had done so well here on loan. I was with Gerard when he was agonising over that one. It was really a close decision.

“We had the deal done with PSG for Nicolas. Gerard was aware of his history with Arsenal and was concerned that maybe he wouldn’t have that passion as a full-time player rather than just being on loan and in the end decided to go with Diouf. The other player we were in for then who looked a great prospect was Damien Duff, who eventually went to Chelsea for big money a year later.”

Liverpool opted to sign Diouf, Diao and Cheyrou instead of Duff and Anelka, and Parry admitted this wasn’t a wise move.

“With hindsight, it maybe would have been more sensible to go with quality rather than quantity – buying a really good player rather than three who turned out to be distinctly average.”

That quantity over quality approach also saw Liverpool miss out on Dani Alves before the Brazilian full-back left Sevilla for Barcelona in 2008.

“We had the deal, finally after enormous complications, tied up for Dani Alves and then the decision was should we buy two players or should we spend all of that on a full-back? Alves wasn’t the player then that he is now. but he always looked like he would be a great player. Would he have been a better signing than (Jermaine) Pennant and (Peter) Crouch for example? Probably yes, but it’s easy with hindsight.

Parry also said that, if he had the chance to do it again, he would opt to sign players based on quality, rather than looking to add to the squad. He also mentioned the successful players the club did manage to sign when Benitez was manager.

“Clearly, we were trying to make that final step. We didn’t have Chelsea’s money so we were trying to be smarter. Looking back, if I could do anything different, it would be to focus on buying one at a time rather than having to buy five or six every season.

“During Rafa’s era we brought in the likes of Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Javier Mascherano, Luis Garcia and Fernando Torres so there were a few half decent ones.”