Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher both blamed Liverpool’s poor recruitment for their failure to win a league title for 30 years.
The Sky Sports’ pundits teamed up on MNF Retro to analyse Liverpool’s classic 4-3 defeat to Leeds back in 2000, Mark Viduka scoring all four goals for the Yorkshire side in a thrilling contest at Elland Road.
Carragher featured that day for a beaten Liverpool side who went on to claim three trophies under Gerard Houllier later that season, though the league title eluded the former defender throughout a 17-year career on Merseyside.
The two pundits discussed the Reds’ failure to progress and win an elusive Premier League title, and Neville believes the club’s poor recruitment was to blame as they failed to compete with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
“It bugged me a little bit, I remember it bugging me! I came off my sunbed in Malta to watch the FA Cup win over Arsenal… and I think every time Liverpool won a trophy, it annoyed us,” Neville said.
“We’d be thinking: ‘Are they getting closer again?’ It was the one we would fear. But it would always feel like you were getting closer but would dip off a bit. For me, at Liverpool, it always felt like every time you got close you either lost players or you didn’t recruit well.
“It didn’t always feel like you couldn’t quite go for the best players in the transfer market. It always felt like you were toying with it. If the market was at £15m, you were at £8m, if the market was at £25m, you were at £16m. You were never quite up there with them.”
Carragher agreed with Neville’s assessment, and believes financial restrictions played their part in Houllier’s Liverpool failing to build on a 2000/01 season that delivered FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup success.
“That was the story of that team. The next season, we bought one player in John Arne Riise. Gerard Houllier felt the team had done so well, and didn’t need much changing.
“I think at that time, if things didn’t go well for Man United, you had an ability to spend big. Like Rio Ferdinand for £30m in the summer of 2002 after Arsenal won the league. For us, we’d spend that money on four players, and you needed them all to work.”
Carragher admitted that Liverpool had invested poorly at a time they came close to challenging at the top, comparing the club’s transfer dealings to those of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, the Gunners winning two league titles over a three-year period between 2002 and 2004.
“I think we were spending similar to Arsenal, and the big difference between Houllier and Arsene Wenger, though I adore Houllier, Wenger was a genius in the transfer market.
“We signed Emile Heskey for £11m, Wenger signed Henry for £11m. If we signed Nick Barmy for £6m, they signed Robert Pires for £6m. They also got Sol Campbell on a free at that time. They just became superstars, whereas ours became very good players.
“You see Christian Ziege involved there [against Leeds]; I think he was possibly the highest paid player in the Premier League and after that game, it felt like the end of him playing left-back for Liverpool, and he ended up playing left midfield.”
🗣''We signed Emile Heskey for £11 million, Wenger signed Henry for £11m. If we signed Nick Barmby for £6m, they signed Robert Pires for £6m. Wenger was a genius in the transfer market."
Jamie Carragher on the difference between Liverpool & Arsenal pic.twitter.com/jAQXdzE1bp
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 24, 2020
Neville added his disbelief at Liverpool’s reluctance to spend until recent years, citing the big-money arrivals of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson as key reasons behind the club’s return to the summit of the English game.
“That is what has shocked me about Jurgen Klopp in the last few years; before you went for Alisson and [Virgl] van Dijk, Liverpool still weren’t spending the big, big money, and then it’s like, oh, Alisson and Van Dijk were signed for huge money and that’s the final piece of the jigsaw.”