Thursday 27th May 2004 


Gerard Houllier today defended his transfer record at Liverpool but pinpointed Senegal striker El-Hadji Diouf as the most disappointing signing in six years on Merseyside.

The Frenchman, who was sacked as manager on Monday, backed other young players he signed to flourish at Anfield.

"I've prepared the team of the future with [Milan] Baros, [Djibril] Cisse, [John Arne] Riise, [Anthony] Le Tallec and [Florent] Sinama-Pongolle," said Houllier.

"In the past few years we've spent £110million and sold players for £68m. That means the team has cost £42m over five or six years and if a club like Liverpool can't accept that, then there's problems.

"Moreover, they asked me to get the team into the Champions League every other year and we've been in it for three out of four years.

"Taking part in that competition and winning the UEFA Cup, we've also recouped a lot of money."

Houllier's final signing was France striker Cisse, who is suspended for Euro 2004 but will join in July from Auxerre after top-scoring in the French league this season.

"You must know that you're never always successful with recruitment," Houllier added.

"Newcastle have gone wrong with Hugo Viana, Arsenal with Francis Jeffers . . . The disappointment [at Liverpool] has been El-Hadji Diouf - he has great potential but has never shown consistency."

Appearing to refer to an episode against Celtic in March 2003, when Diouf spat at one of the Scottish club's fans, Houllier said: "On occasions he has not given a good impression of the club and that has no doubt in my mind affected people's views."

Houllier told L'Equipe that he had felt vulnerable in his position "since the start of the season".

"You must understand that there are 28 former Liverpool players and coaches who collaborate with the media," he stated.

"Bobby Robson told during our last match of the season against Newcastle, 'You've got people on your back who won't give up'."

Houllier has played down speculation that he might take charge of Monaco if Didier Deschamps is prised away from the Champions League runners-up.

He will travel to Euro 2004, to act as a match observer for UEFA, before deciding when to return to club management.

Whether that will be in England or France he is not yet sure, but Houllier will look back on his Anfield career with the only regret being the timing of his dismissal.

"I'll never forget the great relationship I had with the players and all the messages they sent on Monday," he said.

"[Steven] Gerrard made a point of talking to me for 10 minutes.

"I hope that Liverpool will continue to progress."


Evening Standard