Jerzy Dudek will rightly be a Liverpool legend forever more – his heroics in Istanbul were a huge factor in us walking away with a fifth European Cup.
In truth, most Liverpool fans already knew the writing was on the wall for the Pole. A string of poor performances and silly errors in the previous 18 months had culminated in us searching for a new keeper.
Unsurprisingly, Pepe Reina was signed from Villarreal that summer, and Dudek found himself relegated to third-choice behind the Spaniard and Scott Carson.
By the January transfer window he was itching for a move – he hadn’t kicked a ball in the first team all season and there was a World Cup looming in the summer.
In his new book, he reveals what happened next:
“The main interest was from 1. FC Köln. I received a call from their manager, Michael Meier, and in a 15-minute conversation he made it clear he was desperate for me to try to help them get off the bottom of the Bundesliga. We had played a friendly in the Rhein Energie Stadium in 2003 so I already knew they had a great bunch of supporters so I told Benitez I wanted to go there.
“He said it would be a good move for me, adding: ‘We’ll definitely help you, we’ll do whatever it takes to make a deal.’
“The negotiations started. There was an issue over whether it was a loan move first or a permanent transfer straight away. A week-and-a-half later and there was no progress. I was in touch with Meier regularly and he told me Benitez wouldn’t speak to him, but was saying Köln’s offer was unacceptable. They wanted to take me on loan for six months, for which Liverpool would get €800,000, then complete a permanent €3m transfer in the summer if they avoided relegation.
“German clubs are financially savvy – Köln knew they couldn’t afford to buy me if they weren’t in the top division – but Rafa refused to let me go on loan. It was a permanent deal or nothing as far as he was concerned. I tried to convince him to change his mind: “What have you got to lose? If they go down I’ll come back to Liverpool and stay until my contract ends or you can sell me then. I really need to play games to be prepared for the World Cup.
“He said he understood and liked my desire to be playing so negotiations with Köln continued. Three days before the transfer window closed I went in to see him again – ‘Relax, Jerzy, there’s still time, but we want a permanent deal,’ – but Meier was telling me that Rafa was still refusing to take his calls! I got more and more frustrated with him until transfer deadline day when I finally boiled over.
“As soon as training had finished I stormed over to him and ripped my gloves off in an aggressive manner. I was so angry that the lads said later the aggression was pouring out of me. I raised my voice. The lads could see I was fuming so all hung around to see what would happen. Footballers love seeing a bit of confrontation on the training ground!
‘We’ll talk in a moment, Jerzy.’
‘No, let’s talk now. What is going on with my transfer?’
‘I will be honest with you, I am not interested in loaning you. If they come back today to buy you, they need to double their offer as this is the last day of the transfer window’ I was furious with him, absolutely fuming, and in my head I could hear a devilish voice saying ‘punch him in the face – punch him in the face and he’ll let you go to Germany’.
“To be completely honest, I genuinely considered punching Rafa in the face. Then the consequences of doing so flashed through my mind. Would he let me go? Or would it just lead to a massive media scandal? Surely I couldn’t stay if I gave him a smack?
“I don’t know how, but I managed to stop myself. Punching a Liverpool manager who had won the European Cup only a few months earlier wouldn’t have looked too good on the CV I guess, but I was still angry.” (via Echo).
Dudek eventually moved to Real Madrid in the summer of 2007, playing just 12 games in four seasons.