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The leaving of Liverpool

Robin Hackett
February 3, 2011
Fernando Torres' departure has divided opinion on Merseyside © PA Photos
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While he had attained something approaching legendary status at Anfield from the moment he wore a 'You'll Never Walk Alone' armband at Atletico Madrid, Fernando Torres has now made the move to Chelsea after handing in a transfer request.

ESPNsoccernet puts together a list of some of the most significant departures from the club.

Ian St John (1971)
St John, approaching his mid-30s, was certainly past his best by the time he departed Anfield, and he made just one appearance as a substitute in the league in the 1970-71 season. Nonetheless, his departure to South African side Hellenic was significant as he was perhaps the most prominent of the group that left the club after the successes of the '60s.

After an embarrassing 1970 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Second Division side Watford, Bill Shankly opted to usher in a new era in swift and decisive fashion, with St John, Ron Yeats, Roger Hunt, Tommy Lawrence and Geoff Strong to be replaced by a much younger side. Journalist Brian Reade, in his book 44 Years With The Same Bird: A Liverpudlian Love Affair, claims St John referred to Shankly as "that bastard" as he spent his final season exiled from the first-team.

In October 1970, after a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham, Shankly said: "We will win the title. Not next season, or the season after, but this season. This was the hardest test our youngsters have had and they came through it well, and - remember - this is a new Liverpool. Most of the people here today wouldn't have known half of them."

Toshack put his faith in the likes of Emlyn Hughes, Ian Callaghan, Tommy Smith and Ray Clemence, and signed up John Toshack at the end of 1970 and Kevin Keegan the following year. The team finished fifth in 1970-71, third in 1971-72 and finally won the title again in 1972-73.

Kevin Keegan (1977)
The new Liverpool were to prove more successful than ever and, with Keegan, they won three league titles, two UEFA Cups and an FA Cup. His final game for the club was a 3-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in the European Cup final of 1977.

Keegan had made clear for much of the preceding year that he would like to play abroad and - although he was quoted in a Sunday newspaper saying if he did not join an overseas club he would want to go to Manchester United - he sealed a £500,000 move to Germany with Hamburg.

He was to be replaced by 27-year-old Kenny Dalglish, a £440,000 signing from Celtic. "I signed Dalglish because he is a great player," manager Bob Paisley said. "He is not Kevin Keegan, but he is something in his own right."

Ray Clemence (1981)
England goalkeeper Clemence, who had been with Liverpool since 1967, asked for a transfer in the summer of 1981 at the age of 32.

"He is under contract and there is no way I want him to go," Paisley said. "Ray feels that now is possibly the best time for him to leave but it may not be the best time for the club."

Clemence, who had just won his third European Cup with the club, had not had his best season on a personal level and it was suggested that he needed to move on to regain his motivation. Liverpool accepted his transfer request - "I did my best to persuade him but to no avail," Paisley said - and he made a £300,000 move to Tottenham.

Fortunately for Liverpool, Bruce Grobbelaar had arrived from Vancouver Whitecaps and he would go on to establish himself as the club's No. 1 for the next decade.

Graeme Souness (1984)
After five league titles and three European Cups, Liverpool captain Souness, 31, left the club for Sampdoria in a £650,000 deal.

While he looked forward to a "marvellous experience" in Italy, his salary - said to have been worth up to £200,000 tax-free - was the deciding factor.

"Frankly I'm choked, and not only because this is the saddest as well as the most momentous decision I have ever made," he said. "I can't forget six-and-a-half happy years at Liverpool just like that and I don't pretend that the reason I've left is not mainly money."

Kevin Keegan was a star for Liverpool © Getty Images
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Liverpool had sought to keep their captain, and they struggled after his departure, claiming only two victories from their first 11 league games of the 1984-85 season, as well as losing the Charity Shield to Everton and suffering defeat in the League Cup to Tottenham.

Having watched Liverpool beat Benfica in the second round of the European Cup on television, though, Souness told The Observer: "Forget all this talk about a crisis. This is the same Liverpool I knew last year."

Liverpool would reach the European Cup final again that season - where the Heysel Disaster overshadowed their defeat to Juventus - and recovered sufficiently to finish second, behind Everton, in the league.

Ian Rush (1987)
Bob Paisley paid £300,000 to take Rush from Chester in 1980, and he gradually established himself as a goalscorer of the highest calibre. In January 1985, though, it emerged that he was, as The Guardian reported, "likely to arrange an extremely lucrative deal for both himself and his club to move to either an Italian or a Spanish club after this season".

Over a year later, in May 1986, he agreed a three-year deal with Juventus that doubled his salary at Anfield.

Rush remained at Liverpool on loan for the 1986-87 campaign - in Michel Platini and Michael Laudrup, Juventus had used up their quota of foreign players - but there were doubts over the Reds' ability to remain among the elite. Heysel had brought a ban on English clubs in Europe and, with Rush going and Dalglish now in a player-manager role, the need to sustain the club became more stark.

Liverpool failed to win the league and lost in the League Cup final.

Rush was to return just a year later but, in the summer of 1987, Liverpool moved to reinvest the £3.2 million raised by his sale. Having already spent £750,000 on like-for-like replacement John Aldridge in January, they added John Barnes, at £900,000, and Peter Beardsley, at £1.9 million.

In October 1987, Rush said Liverpool were "probably a better side than last season", and they were nine points clear at the top of the First Division by the end of the campaign.

John Aldridge (1989)
Aldridge, in Rush's absence, had become the First Division's leading scorer with 26 goals in the 1987-88 season. It is said that, at the news Rush was returning to Anfield in August 1988, a 'disbelieving' Aldridge called up the Liverpool Echo seeking confirmation of the story.

Aldridge was Liverpool's top scorer again in the 1988-89 season but, at the start of the following campaign, he had fallen out of favour as Dalglish preferred a front two of Rush and Beardsley.

Real Sociedad bid for Aldridge, 31, and he expressed a willingness to move.

He bade farewell to the fans with a goal from the penalty spot in a 9-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, and Dalglish said afterwards: "We couldn't give him what he wanted."

Peter Beardsley (1991)
At the end of the 1989-90 season, Dalglish reinforced his forward line by signing Ronny Rosenthal from Standard Liege for £1.1 million and then, in January 1991, David Speedie from Coventry for £675,000.

Beardsley, a fan favourite, was regularly omitted amid reports of a falling out with the manager and, though Dalglish was to resign in February 1991, the player's time at Anfield was drawing to a close.

Souness, Dalglish's successor, beat Everton to the £2.9 million signing of Derby forward Dean Saunders and then allowed Beardsley to join the Toffees in a £1 million deal.

"Of all the players I have talked to and agreed a fee with, Saunders is the only one to sign for someone else," Everton boss Howard Kendall said. "If it had been anyone other than Liverpool, we would have won the race."

He added: "Dean is obviously three years younger than Peter and obviously their ages have a lot to do with valuations, but Peter is 30 going on 27. I'm sure his birth certificate is wrong."

Everton had lost the battle for Saunders but won the war. Saunders was sold to Aston Villa after just one season at Anfield for £2.3 million; Everton reluctantly sold Beardsley, 32, for £1.5 million to Newcastle in 1993, with Toon boss Kevin Keegan saying: "I honestly believe Peter is still the best player in the country."

Steve McManaman (1999)
After signing professional terms under Dalglish, McManaman came through during Souness's reign and established himself as a bona fide star under Roy Evans.

However, his off-field activities became a distraction, he was accused of not pulling his weight and, most significantly, he would not commit to a new contract at the club.

Barcelona had a £12 million bid for the player accepted in August 1997 as his contract entered its final 22 months. It was reported that the move fell through because of McManaman's wage demands, although the fact that Barca signed Rivaldo on the same day adds weight to his suggestion he was a pawn in the transfer games.

"I flew out there and back without talking to or meeting anyone," he said. "They did not negotiate with me but they did negotiate with another player and maybe that says it all. What upsets me most is that the supporters have been given the impression I want to leave."

Juventus then saw an £11 million bid turned down in November 1997, and Barcelona vice-president Joan Gaspart claimed in January 1998 that a deal was "agreed between the player and the club [...] if Louis van Gaal wants him".

He remained at Liverpool, but refused to sign an extension as he entered the final year of his contract. He insisted that the prospect of trophies, not money, would decide his future. In January 1999 it became clear he would join Real Madrid in a deal worth a reported £3.4 million a year. "At 27, now is the right time," he said.

Xabi Alonso starred alongside Steven Gerrard © Getty Images
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Robbie Fowler (2001)
Gerard Houllier's decision to sign Emile Heskey from Leicester in 2000 fuelled the doubts over Fowler's future at Anfield.

"Owen and Fowler is probably the best strike partnership in Europe but I suppose by coming here I have to try to break it up," Heskey said. His task was easier than expected.

Houllier had a difficult relationship with Fowler, and the manager encouraged Chris Bascombe, a Liverpool Echo reporter, to criticise the player prior to his £11 million sale to Leeds in November 2001. When the news of the transfer came, Bascombe wrote in the Echo: "It's a sad day but a necessary one. Liverpool have no choice but to let him go."

Phil Thompson, who had a bust-up with Fowler on the training ground, said: "If people suggest that Robbie has been forced out, they will be talking rubbish. It was Robbie's decision to leave."

Fowler later confirmed he had wanted first-team football, but said: "I felt like crying. Deep down I didn't want to leave and it was a massive wrench." In Fowler: My Autobiography, he said Houllier had forced him out and added in a 2005 interview: "If things had been going according to my plan, I would still be there."

In 2006, with Rafa Benitez having replaced Houllier, he returned to the club.

Michael Owen (2004)
Much as Roy Hodgson was tasked with persuading Liverpool's key players to stay upon his arrival, Benitez had to talk to Gerrard and Owen when he replaced Houllier.

Gerrard eventually pledged his full commitment to the cause, but Owen - who had a year remaining on his contract - decided to move on to Real Madrid for £8 million plus Antonio Nunez.

Houllier had, publicly at least, been convinced Owen would sign a new deal. However, Houllier departed and it became clear that Owen, looking for a move abroad to reinvigorate his career, did not intend to commit long-term.

Benitez said: "I wanted him to stay, but I arrived here one year after they talked and he had not signed. Two months after that, he had still not signed. The problem was he only had a year left on his contract. Real Madrid started talking with his agent and everything changed."

Xabi Alonso (2009)
In 2008-09, Liverpool finished second; in 2009-10, they finished seventh. The most popular explanation is Xabi Alonso's sale to Real Madrid in the intervening summer.

Steven Gerrard told FourFourTwo in November 2009 that he was "devastated" by the sale. "It's always going to be different when you lose one of the best players in the world - and people are finally realising that's what he is, on the back of his form for Real Madrid and the difference in us from last year," he said.

Benitez had sought to sell Alonso and bring in Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry in 2008, ostensibly because of the need to boost the homegrown quota. Neither deal happened, but it was clear Alonso was unhappy with events. "I prefer not to think too much about how I was treated," he said in October that year.

After an exceptional 2008-09 campaign, Alonso submitted a transfer request and was allowed to complete his move to the Bernabeu. The move came after Barry had opted to join Manchester City in a move Benitez claimed was "clearly just for money".

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