Former Liverpool ‘keeper Sander Westerveld has discussed his time at Anfield and has admitted he’s still not sure why he was sold by Gerard Houllier.
The Dutchman was signed from Vitesse in the summer of 1999 for a British record fee for a goalkeeper (£4m) and was a part of the famous treble winning squad in 2001.
But following the arrival of Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland on Merseyside, the shot stopper fell down the pecking order and was eventually sold to Real Sociedad in the winter of 2001.
“I know what happened, but I still don’t understand it,” Westerveld says (as quoted by Planet Football). “From day one, Houllier told me and the press that you need time to adapt to the English league. Obviously, I was criticised like all goalkeepers are. They’re under a lot of pressure, especially at Liverpool.
“I never felt the pressure, but I could see and hear the criticism. I started off well in my first year, when I was 24, and goalkeepers tend to get better every year. In the first year, we had the best defence in the Premier League, and in the second year, we won the treble.
“I was just improving, but already, from the very first day of pre-season, I heard rumours about Liverpool bringing in a new goalkeeper. That’s normal. I wasn’t nervous, or afraid of losing my place, because I felt I was doing good things.”
Both Dudek and Kirkland were signed after Liverpool fell to a shock defeat to Bolton Wanderers and Westerveld made a huge mistake.
That would be his final game for the Anfield outfit and he knew the writing was on the wall after being left out of the entire squad for a Champions League game.
“I made a mistake,” Westerveld says. “Afterwards I went away with the national team and Liverpool bought two goalkeepers instead of one. That was obviously a big blow for me.
“I never thought that I would have to leave Liverpool. I always had a lot of confidence. I knew what I was doing. All goalkeepers make mistakes, but I was winning points as well.
“If they had brought one goalkeeper in, even Dudek, I would still have been fighting for my place. Nobody knows what would have happened. But when they buy two goalkeepers and they don’t even take you on a Champions League away trip as the number three, you know you’re number four.
“From number one to number four. That was just a nightmare. There was nothing for me to do. I didn’t have any chance to come back and they made it very clear. I thought it was very harsh, but what can you do? Things happen like this in football.”
The 48-year-old was very happy at Liverpool and playing in England was his ‘dream’, it therefore makes hearing about the entire situation and how his career with the Reds came to an end rather sad.
“It was all going great for me and the cherry on the cake was Liverpool. English football is very popular in Holland and when I was growing up it was Liverpool who were winning everything. My dream was always to play in England and Liverpool was my club.”
Despite him believing the end to his career on Merseyside was premature, he can be proud of his achievements – that treble winning campaign and squad will be remembered for a long long time