John Terry has lifted the lid on the moment Gerard Houllier tried to convince him to join Liverpool before Chelsea’s 2-1 win over their rivals on the final day of the 2002/03 Premier League campaign.
The Stamford Bridge clash was effectively a playoff for the final Champions League qualification spot that season and it was Chelsea who would seal their place in Europe’s premier competition, with the Reds having to settle for UEFA Cup football instead.
Sami Hyypia gave Liverpool an early advantage in west London before Marcel Desailly’s powerful header and an exquisite curled strike from Jesper Gronkaer sealed all three points for the hosts.
Terry was considered one of the hottest prospects in English football at the time but missed the all-important encounter with an injury meaning William Gallas started alongside Desailly in central defence that afternoon.
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The victory came as a huge relief to Chelsea considering their well-documented financial issues ahead of Roman Abramovich’s arrival and Terry has revealed how Liverpool manager Houllier tried to get him to jump ship before the takeover.
‘I didn’t play in 2002/03 in the last game of the season, the big game, I didn’t play, I was out injured when we won 2-1 and secured fourth place and then obviously Roman came in after that,’ Terry explained during a chat with Jamie Carragher for Sky Sports.
‘Houllier had said to me, “Listen, whatever way this game goes, if you don’t qualify we’d be interested”. I actually forgot about that.
‘It was a brief conversation in the tunnel at Stamford Bridge.
‘But I was like, “Chelsea is my club”. And it didn’t go any further than that, to be honest.’
Phil Thompson – Houllier’s assistant at Liverpool – told a different story of the conversation earlier this year, claiming Terry’s reaction was actually ‘positive’ but Abramovich’s arrival shortly after the chat convinced the defender to commit his future to Chelsea.
‘Chelsea were in financial trouble at the time and John hadn’t signed a new contract,’ Thompson told The Athletic.
‘Gerard said to me, “What do you think?” and I said he would be perfect. John was still only a young lad but he was fantastic.
‘He wasn’t blessed with great pace but he read the game so well and was clearly going to be a top centre-half.
‘After the game Gerard had a quiet work with John and asked if he’d like to play for Liverpool. The response was positive.
‘Gerard sent [director of scouting] Alex Miller to get his agent’s details and he came back from the players’ lounge with John’s mobile number.
The a few weeks later Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and suddenly they had all this money. John and Frank Lampard both got big new contracts.’
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