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Rafa Benitez picks three quality signings he missed out on at Liverpool



Liverpool signed Antonio Nunez as part of the deal that brought Michael Owen to Real Madrid – but Rafa Benitez wanted someone else

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Rafa Benitez revealed the Real Madrid player he really wanted to sign for Liverpool when he sold Michael Owen to the Spanish giants in 2004.

With a year remaining on his contract at Anfield, the England international joined Real Madrid in August 2004 in a deal worth £12m, when the Reds were handed £8m and Antonio Nunez in exchange. However, the Spaniard endured an injury-plagued spell at Liverpool. Although he would go on to win the Champions League and score in the League Cup final, he would go on to make 27 appearances, including just 13 as a starter, in what turned out to be his only season with the Reds before returning to Spain with the Celt Vigo.

Liverpool would sign Fernando Morientes from Real Madrid six months later in January 2005, while future signing Alvaro Arbeloa was also on the Spanish giants’ books at the time of Owen’s swap deal for Nunez.

Yet Benitez had a very different player in mind who he initially tried to sign after agreeing to sell the striker: Juanfran,

“I had to try and get the best deal for my football club,” he said on the We Are Liverpool podcast. “I spoke to Real because I knew Real Madrid quite well, and I spoke to a friend of mine, who was a journalist close to the president, to give me information on what they thought. And I knew 100% they were going to close the deal.

“So I said to Rick Parry: ‘Rick, we have to do this award and try to get this young player Juanfran on board.’ Juanfran played for Real Madrid’s B team and went on to play for Atletico Madrid as a right back and winger. right, we needed a right wing.

“They said no, and then they put (Antonio) Nunez in the deal. We have Nunez, who was (very) injured and maybe not the best signing, but I tried to get someone else to improve the deal for us because it was done, it was just a matter of how much.”

Juanfran would spend the 2005/06 season on loan at Espanyol before joining Osasuna on a free transfer in 2006.

The defender would go on to make 355 appearances for Atlético after leaving the Bernabeu, winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey, two Europa Leagues and reaching two Champions League finals, as well as winning Euro 2012 with Spain.

Meanwhile, Juanfran wasn’t the only player Benitez revealed he lost during his time at Liverpool. He recalled once again how the Reds lost Dani Alves because they didn’t have the money for both the Brazilian and Dirk Kuyt. He also revealed how he tried to sign Stefan Jovetic in 2009, believing a £16million transfer fee was in his budget, only to be told otherwise by club bosses.

“I wanted to sign Jovetic,” he said. “He played for Fiorentina and the price was £16million. In my head, with my budget, I had the money. And then when I went to sign him I was told, ‘No , you don’t have the money. “Then we played against Fiorentina, we lost 2-0, Jovetic scored two goals. He was the player I wanted. These are things the fans don’t know. As a manager you have to make decisions based on the money you have.

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