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The real reason Liverpool cancelled the arrival of Lee Bowyer

By Charles Cornwall

The real reason Liverpool cancelled the arrival of Lee Bowyer

After negotiations dragged on, Liverpool ended up cancelling the transfer in question, for a variety of reasons, on this day in 2002.

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Liverpool’s plans to sign a new midfielder remain on hold until 2023. Following the signing of Fabio Carvalho, the German has nine senior options available at his disposal. However, that hasn't stopped supporters from urging the Reds to strengthen their hand further.

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Liverpool tried to sign one midfielder 20 years ago. The player in question was on the market, having been transfer-listed after rejecting a new contract, while the Reds would have a £9m bid accepted for his services. But after negotiations dragged on, Liverpool ended up pulling the plug on the transfer in question, for a variety of reasons, on this day in 2002. The player in question was Leeds United star Lee Bowyer.

As Jamie Carragher would later reveal, Reds manager Gerard Houllier was a massive fan of the midfielder. “Gerard Houllier loved Lee Bowyer. Adored him,” he revealed on Sky Sports in 2020. “He was someone he'd talk about in team meetings, talking about how good Lee Bowyer was. We actually tried to sign him and unfortunately for us it fell through.”

A star for the Whites at the time, he had proven himself to be a prolific goalscorer from midfield for Leeds, having netted 42 goals in the four seasons prior to Liverpool’s bid and impressed for the title-challenging side in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup.

March 2002

Yet after missing out on qualifying for the Champions League for the second-successive season, Leeds were in financial trouble and needed to raise funds. With Bowyer only having 12 months left on his contract, having rejected an extension said to be worth £39k a week, more than double his then wage of £18k a week, during the latter stages of the 2001/02 campaign, he was transfer-listed and available for a cut-price fee.

Liverpool had been linked with Bowyer for a number of years at the time, with reports in March 2002 claiming he had been spotted in a hotel in north Wales with Reds assistant manager Phil Thompson as speculation heated up.

With Terry Venables replacing David O’Leary, who had wanted the midfielder to stay at Elland Road, as Leeds manager on July 8, Liverpool soon made a bid for the then 25-year-old, and saw an offer worth an initial £7m, rising to £9m depending on appearances and England caps, accepted. As a result, Bowyer underwent a medical at Melwood on July 16, and was expected to finalise his transfer ahead of a potential debut against Le Havre on July 19.

But as the week went on, Bowyer was still no closer to agreeing terms with the Reds, having rejected their £35k a week offer. The ECHO reported on July 17 that the club were confident of ironing out personal terms, believed talks with Houllier had gone well and that a compromise would be reached over the next 24 hours. But the following day the Frenchman would confirm negotiations were ongoing.

On July 21 the Reds would confirm they had pulled the plug on the transfer, releasing a statement on their official website questioning the player’s attitude throughout negotiations, with Houllier said to be unimpressed by the 25-year-old's refusal to lower his wage demands to match the Merseysiders' offer.

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