Former Middlesbrough star Juninho has revealed that he almost joined Liverpool after Boro’s relegation from the Premier League in 1997.
The Brazilian midfielder joined Boro from Sao Paulo in 1995 for £4.75m and firmly established himself as a fan favourite during his time at the Riverside Stadium.
Despite impressing for Bryan Robson’s men, he could not rescue them from relegation on the final day of the 1996/97 Premier League campaign.
Juninho was reduced to tears after scoring in a draw with Leeds on the final day of the season secured Boro’s fate and he went on to leave that summer, joining Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.
The playmaker has, however, admitted that he should never have left England and had an opportunity to move to Liverpool.
“If l could go back to the past, l would never leave English football when I did,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I had the chance to go to Liverpool in 1997. The manager [Roy Evans] spoke to my father but I had already given my word to Atletico Madrid.”
Juninho returned for two further spells at Middlesbrough, one on loan and one permanent, before eventually retiring in 2010 at the age of 36.
His record of 29 Premier League goals for a Brazilian was recently broken by Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, and the 44-year-old is a big fan of his fellow countryman.
“I am delighted that he takes my record. I can’t think of anyone better – the record couldn’t be in better hands,” he said.
“Coutinho can be considered, after Neymar, the best player in Brazil. He’s different class and he deserves everything he is achieving because he has worked very hard for it.
“If you have an intelligence to your game then you can find the space on the pitch and because the game in England is so fast that means a lot of the time it is also very open.
“One of Coutinho’s biggest qualities is that ability to find the space. People think that type of player will have more difficulties adapting to English football than say Spanish football but in England I found a lot more space than I did in Spain. The intensity is there but if you get past the first wave of pressure then the pitch opens up.”