Ex-Liverpool forward Harry Kewell says the club were right to sign him over Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003.
Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier passed up the chance to sign Ronaldo because he did not want to break the wage structure at Anfield – and the Australian firmly believes Houllier made the right call.
Liverpool, who were interested in signing the striker when he was 18, were unable to afford him, having spent available funds on French teenagers Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle.
The Reds were then forced to watch as Ronaldo moved to Manchester United for £12m.
And once he established himself at Old Trafford, the Portuguese led their rivals to three Premier League titles, the Champions League and an assortment of domestic trophies before joining Real Madrid for a then world-record fee.
Kewell, who now manages Crawley Town, is quoted by El Bernabeu: “I don’t know if you can say that [on Liverpool nearly signing Ronaldo].
“I mean back when I had signed for Liverpool, I think I was the number one person to go round in that year, so I think he (Houllier) made the right decision.”
Ronaldo’s wage demands were also a factor in Liverpool dropping their interest, a decision Kewell also referred to: “I agreed with not breaking the salary scale. I thought it could cause problems in the locker room”
Kewell signed for Anfield in a £5m deal but his time at the club was punctuated by injuries and he never quite managed to reproduce the form that saw him score 53 goals in 218 appearances for Leeds United.
However, he did play 12 games in the club’s run to the 2004/05 Champions League, including the final against AC Milan where he injured himself.
“In hindsight, yes, you could turn around and say a lot of things, there’s a lot of great players that have gone elsewhere that have never been signed.”
Houllier earlier confirmed the Reds opted not to sign Ronaldo when he was available, telling the Liverpool Echo: “We had a wage scale and we weren’t paying the sort of salary he wanted.”
“Maybe we would have won the title with Ronaldo, but we had Harry Kewell, who was outstanding at the time and was very hungry but got a bad injury. I agreed with not breaking the wage structure. I thought it would cause problems in our dressing room.”