Houllier admits Liverpool snubbed Ronaldo demands because of Michael Owen

Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier has admitted the club turned down the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo as his wage demands would have surpassed Michael Owen's salary.

The Portuguese superstar came close to moving to Anfield in 2002 – a year before he completed a switch to Liverpool's rivals Man Utd.

United ended up payingin excess of £12million to land the promising talent from Sporting Lisbon, but Liverpool almost got him for a fraction of that fee.

Houllier revealed Liverpool were chasing an audacious double swoop for Ronaldo and his Sporting teammate Ricardo Quaresma, but were eventually priced out.

He told Goal : “We had been following Cristiano for a year, but it was dragging a bit because at the salary level it was more demanding than what we could do for Ronaldo.

“You have to know that there was a salary policy at Liverpool and Michael Owen had just won the Ballon d’Or. You couldn’t give a 17-year-old a higher salary than him."

United ended up making their move the following summer after Ronaldo dazzled in a pre-season friendly against Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Since then, Ronaldo has gone on to emphatically eclipse Owen's Ballon d'Or triumph, winning five of the awards in a glittering career.

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It's been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp's men.

They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.

Virgil van Dijk's season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson's injury worries too.

But there's no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.

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Few could argue with Liverpool's approach though, given Ronaldo's relatively unknown status in the game and Owen's standing as one of the world's top strikers.

"His price went from £4 million to £13m and we could not match it," Houllier conceded. "Maybe also our recruiter should have said yes right away but he wanted to be sure, to not make a mistake."

Houllier's former assistant Phil Thompson recently shed light on the failed bid for Ronaldo in an interview with The Athletic.

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He confirmed Liverpool had the terms of a transfer worth £4m agreed, with the cost set to be spread out in four £1m installments, with Ronaldo's wages the only stumbling block.

And Thompson can vividly remember the moment they learned United had swooped in to poach Ronaldo from under their noses.

"On the Tuesday morning, we were having lunch at the training ground and it came up on the yellow strap on Sky Sports, ' Manchester United have signed Cristiano Ronaldo for £12.2million,'" Thompson recalled.

"Gerard and myself almost choked on our food. I can remember Gerard jumping up and saying, 'What the hell has gone on there?'"

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