‘I’m so glad I listened to my agent’ – Liverpool defender rejects Manchester United and asks Jurgen Klopp to retire
As Liverpool chase an unprecedented four-fold, Jurgen Klopp continues to rotate his squad to give the Reds the best possible chance of glory. However, that wasn’t quite the case the last time around as the club were still competing on all fronts at this stage of the season.
Gerard Houllier led Liverpool to a treble of cups in 2000/01, with the Reds winning the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup, as well as Champions League qualification for the first time, as they participated in all possible matches. throughout the campaign. If Jurgen Klopp’s side reach the Champions League and FA Cup final this season, they will equal that feat and play a maximum of 63 matches.
Jordan Henderson has made more appearances than anyone else for Liverpool this season, with 41 of the Reds’ 47 appearances, while Alisson and Virgil van Dijk have the most starts with 38 each. Yet remarkably in 2000/01, defender Markus Babbel started 60 times in his first season on Merseyside as he helped Houllier’s men clinch the treble – even scoring the opener in their UEFA Cup victory against Alaves.
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Playing at right-back, he thrived as an attacking full-back following his transfer from Bosman from Bayern Munich, scoring six goals and registering five assists with his presence ensuring Jamie Carragher moved to left-back. Yet despite being a fan favorite and one of the first names Kopites will associate with this season, his career could have turned out very differently had he not listened to his agent.
A member of the Bayern Munich squad that lost to Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League final, Sir Alex Ferguson had previously tried to sign the German, with a deal even being struck with the Bavarians. However, Babbel would turn down the offer before signing for Liverpool in 2000.
Looking back, he certainly has no regrets with a few reasons why a move to Old Trafford wouldn’t have been right.
“(I was) very close. At that time it was a record fee, no one had ever been signed for that fee before,” he told ECHO via bet365. “It was 40 million German marks at the time.
“I was talking to United, but my agent said, ‘Listen Markus, there’s something wrong. They are ready to pay so much on your transfer fee, but your salary is ok, nothing more. With that transfer fee money, they would have to pay much higher salaries.
I said: “Okay, I don’t have to leave if it’s not good, I’m happy to stay at Bayern Munich.” It’s a fantastic club and looking back, I’m so glad it didn’t happen. They wanted to sign me as a central defender, but I was not the best central defender!
“In Germany I always played with three defenders, so it was a different game for me: three against two centre-backs. The right side was the perfect position for me in that United defender, but they had Gary Neville, one of the greatest right-backs of the era.
“I’m so glad I listened to my agent and waited to go to Liverpool.”
Having won the treble at Anfield, Babbel is well placed to know what it takes to challenge on all fronts this season. So with this experience, what does he think of the quadruple chances of his former club?
“They can (win the quadruple) yes, especially with the depth of this team,” he insists. They have 16-18 fantastic players, and the rest of the squad is good, which is a huge plus. They have quality for it, but they will need a bit of luck too, no unexpected injuries or accidents.
“You see how strong they are with strength in depth. If someone got injured six months ago, that was a problem – now it’s not a problem.
“The new players have settled in brilliantly. Konaté struggled at first and now he looks very comfortable. Also Diaz, another new player, I can’t believe how good he is! You would think he had been playing for Liverpool for ten years.
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“Of course Liverpool have the quality, so my dream is that Liverpool or Bayern Munich win the Champions League at the end of this season. Teams like Man City (and) Real Madrid will make it difficult.
“Bayern Munich have great players, but I think their team is not big enough. Both clubs (Liverpool and Bayern) have the potential to win it. Man City, Real Madrid and those other clubs can also win the title, but I would say Man City and Liverpool are the favourites.
With Klopp’s contract set to expire in 2024, speculation over his future continues. However, the German won’t be distracted by such talk as he looks to lead Liverpool to further silverware over the next couple of years.
And Babbel thinks his compatriot could be persuaded to continue at Anfield, believing the Reds boss could even decide to retire when the time comes for him to leave Liverpool. However, he believes it’s a different story when it comes to Pep Guardiola and Man City, backing the former Bayern boss to make a shock move when he leaves the Etihad.
“If he leaves Liverpool, then he retires,” he suggested. “After Liverpool, where are you going? You can’t go to Bayern, you can’t join another English club. The only thing I can imagine is the German national team.
If Hansi Flick doesn’t make it, he might try to join the national team, but he’s so fiery that I don’t see him leaving anytime soon. So much energy, he’s so happy with his boys, I can’t believe he’ll end up at the end of his contract.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he (Guardiola) goes to Newcastle. He’s a fantastic manager, one of the best ever, but he’s not as emotionally invested as Klopp. has money to spend on building a team, he can go anywhere.