Saturday 16 December 2017

Former Liverpool chief reveals why he rejected Dele Alli and how he agreed to sign Alexis Sanchez

Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Former Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre has revealed why his club turned down the chance to sign Dele Alli before he sealed a £5m move to Tottenham two years ago.

Alli had made a big impression with League One side MK Dons and their manager Karl Robinson was keen to set-up a deal that would see his protégée make a move to Anfield, where he had once worked as a coach.

Yet after holding talks with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, and with the player keen to follow in the footsteps of his idol Steven Gerrard by joining Liverpool, the Anfield board made a decision to walk away from a deal for Alli.

Now Ayre has spoken about why they decided not to sign a player who has emerged as one of the rising stars of world football in his two seasons with Spurs, in comments that will undoubtedly infuriate Reds fans.

“There was interest in the player, but where it got to was that the demands at that time were not fitting to what he had achieved at that point,” Ayre said, as he spoke at a lecture at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall.

“We didn’t feel the player matched that demand. It’s easy to sit and say ‘look what you could have bought’, but how many players could you apply the reverse of that to? That’s the truth.”

Ayre also claimed Liverpool had agreed a deal to sign Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona as part of the deal that saw Luis Suarez move from Merseyside to Catalonia in the summer of 2014, only for the second half of the deal to fall through.

“The hardest one out had to be Suarez, because a) nobody wanted him to leave and b) halfway through the process he bit somebody at the World Cup!” added Ayre, as he reflected on the deal to sell the Uruguayan to Barcelona.

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!’

“The thing to understand is that you are never actually in complete control of who you buy and sell as a club.

“There was much-publicised interest in Alexis Sanchez, as part of the deal which saw Luis go to Barcelona, and that deal was done.

“The only reason it wasn’t was that the player and his wife wanted to live in London. We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately.”

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