Nicolas Anelka left a lasting impression on Liverpool supporters during his brief loan spell at the club. He arrived at Anfield on a temporary basis from PSG in December of 2001, going on to score five goals in 22 appearances over the remainder of the season.
While that isn't an especially eye-catching number, his performances impressed the club's fans. Many assumed the Frenchman would be signed on a permanent basis when his loan deal expired that summer.
— MerseyGoals (@MerseyGoals) February 23, 2017
The move never came to fruition, with Liverpool instead signing El Hadji Diouf. We all know how that one turned out.
There have been different stories told over the years as to why the Merseyside club did not sign Anelka (who is the subject of a new Netflix documentary) on a permanent basis, but now the player himself has spoken out.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he admitted he was hoping he would move to Liverpool at the end of that season and thoroughly enjoyed his time at the club.
This is my biggest regret as well because I knew it was the perfect match. Everything was perfect! I loved everything about the club.
I had an amazing relationship with the fans. I loved them and I think it was reciprocal.
Looking back, I am proud to have worn the jersey of this legendary club and to have known this stadium and these amazing fans.
Anelka claims that both parent club PSG and Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier told him that he would be signed on a permanent deal.
Personal terms on a contract were agreed, but then the Premier League club seemingly got cold feet. Anelka believes Houllier did not want to sanction Anelka's sizeable salary, instead going for the cheaper option:
It’s simple: it didn’t happen because Gerard Houllier wanted to pay a lower salary. It’s acceptable but you have to say it.
I wanted to sign from the first minute. Of course a permanent move was discussed from the first day I joined the club.
If you look at the first time they introduced me in the press conference, I said if I could sign now, I would but Gerard Houllier wanted a loan because he was not sure.
In the middle of March, we were in negotiations to sign. PSG shareholder Alain Cayzac said to me Gerard told him that Liverpool would sign me.
Later on Gerard told me face to face he’d sign me permanently.
In the middle of April we reached an agreement about the salary, which had stalled things a little, but I was expecting to sign my contract when the league was over but there was no news from PSG and no news from Liverpool.
I heard on the news that Gerard Houllier was after another player so that’s how I knew they were not going to sign me!
Anelka would go on to join Manchester City that summer, also spending time at Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, and briefly West Brom in England.