Gary Lineker teased Steven Gerrard in the BT Sport studio on Tuesday night over his failed move to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea a decade ago.
The Portuguese manager had been the topic of conversation following his Manchester United side’s victory over Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Lineker noted that a “sparkle” had returned to Mourinho’s eye while guest Frank Lampard waxed lyrical about his former boss’s managerial prowess.
It was at that point Lineker turned to Gerrard and asked, with a customary grin: “Is it true you nearly played for him? You were close to signing for him…”
Gerrard shifted in his chair as an uncomfortable smirk spread across his face: “I think we’ve talked about this before.”
The Liverpool captain handed in a transfer request in 2005, just six weeks after lifting the Champions League trophy, following the club’s rejection of a £32m bid from Chelsea – who had just won the Premier League title in Mourinho’s debut season.
Gerrard said at the time it was “the most difficult decision of my life” to leave Liverpool and ultimately changed his mind on a move to west London.
He later described that U-turn as his “best decision I have made”.
But why is Mourinho such a big draw?
“He’s certainly one of the best managers in the world. His record speaks for itself,” Lampard explained.
“It’s a mixture of things: personality, tactical nous – we saw that in the Europa League final last year, he went out to win that game without a care how it was looked at or portrayed from the outside. He knew Ajax were a better footballing team [and he thought] ‘how can I do it? I’m going to do this to win a game’ and I think that’s what puts him out on his own.
“He is all about winning and he demands that from his players.”
Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic may have cost all the money but it was an altogether more unlikely trio who earned Jose Mourinho’s praise after Manchester United’s 3-0 win over FC Basel.