Liverpool owe a few trophies to Steven Gerrard, but it turns out during his playing career the former Reds captain actually won the club some high-profile fans within the football world too.
The heroics of the 2005 Champions League victory in Istanbul and the FA Cup win at the Millennium Stadium a year later, it seems, earned the admiration of several budding footballers who would go on to become star names in their own right.
And despite the fact Liverpool haven’t had the best time of it overall lately, having gone 26 years without a league title, the club’s history has also meant supporters’ allegiances have been passed on from one generation to another. And that’s seen some pretty decent players in the game right now confess to having been boyhood Reds.
Here, in their own words, are a select few. If only Liverpool could have turned a couple of these fans into signings…
Current team: PSG
What they said: “I think I would like to experience something else [outside Ligue 1]. There are a lot of very good championships, it’s also very rewarding to go elsewhere. I would love to play in the Premier League, not necessarily one club in particular, even though I was very fond of Liverpool when I was young.” (2017)
The Frenchman won four consecutive Ligue 1 titles with Paris Saint-Germain despite being only 22 years of age.
Rabiot has been a regular for the PSG side that have been annihilating their opposition, starting in every Ligue 1 and Champions League game this season – including the 5-0 win over Celtic and the 3-0 thrashing of Bayern Munich.
Rabiot, who plays in a deeper midfield role, recently expressed a desire to make the switch to the Premier League while admitting that he was a boyhood Red growing up – despite being an integral part to a star-studded PSG side that boast the likes of Neymar, Edison Cavani and Kylian Mbappe.
Key stat: Not a prolific goalscorer, Rabiot is instead a master passer of the ball and currently has made the most successful passes in Ligue 1 so far (633) and also has the second-highest pass accuracy of 94% after teammate Thiago Motta (95%).
Kevin De Bruyne
Current team: Manchester City
What they said: “I have always followed the Premier League because my mother is half English. We probably followed it more than Belgian football and, when I was young, we liked Liverpool.” (2012)
The Manchester City starlet’s English roots meant his family supported Liverpool as he grew up.
The Belgian international, whose boyhood idol was Michael Owen, is enjoying a stellar start to the new season with City, his most recent contribution coming through scoring the only goal over his former club as City won at the home of title rivals Stamford Bridge.
De Bruyne previously had spells at Chelsea and Wolfsburg and since Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad in 2016, De Bruyne has become integral to the free-scoring and goal-scoring City side, netting nine times and featuring in 58 matches.
Key stat: De Bruyne has created 24 chances in the league this season – more than any other player. He alone created more chances (6) than the entire Chelsea side (4) in their victory.
Current team: Manchester City
What they said: “If I had to choose a league then it would be the Premier League. I have been a Liverpool fan for as long as I can remember and it would be a dream to play there. I watched the Champions League final and celebrated every goal as if it was for Independiente.” (2006)
The Argentine striker was a teenage Liverpool fan at the time of the Reds’ historic Champions League victory at Istanbul, admitting his admiration just before he left boyhood club Independiente for Atletico Madrid in 2006.
It was reported that Aguero would have been keen to work under Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez at the time amidst the interest of other clubs. The 29-year-old initially proved himself a prolific goalscorer at Atletico, where he tallied 101 total goals before making the move to the Etihad in 2011. He has since scored 176 times – just one goal shy of becoming Manchester City’s all-time top goalscorer.
Key stat: Aguero has scored six Premier League goals this season, joint-second highest alongside Harry Kane and Alvaro Morata with a shot accuracy of 50% – and at 176 goals, he will become Manchester City’s all-time top scorer alongside Eric Brook should he score one more.
Current team: Tottenham
What they said: “Gerrard was a big reason I began supporting Liverpool. I remember Istanbul, the FA Cup final, and the game against Olympiakos: Gerrard just scoring amazing goals. Gerrard was a big influence on why I supported Liverpool.” (2015)
Alli is one of the country’s finest youth talents at just 21, and has gone from strength to strength each season he spends at White Hart Lane, an integral part of an impressive Harry Kane-led Spurs side.
The England international progressed through the youth ranks at Milton Keynes, and at 19 years old he had already attracted the interest of then Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers in early 2013/14. Rodgers was in talks with MK Dons manager Karl Robinson about Alli’s potential, and he looked destined for a move to Anfield – but the midfielder ended up leaving for the Lilywhites in a £5m fee, the Reds ruing the loss.
Alli cites Gerrard’s Champions League wonder goal against Olympiakos as one of the reasons he grew up supporting the Reds.
Key stat: Alli has been directly involved in 21 goals in 26 Premier League games in 2017, with 14 goals 7 assists.