Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier has reaffirmed the story that he spotted Cristiano Ronaldo first when he was managing Liverpool before Manchester United snapped up the player.

“I saw him in the Toulon Under-21 tournament and we went for him, but we had a wage scale and we weren’t paying the sort of salary he wanted,” said Houllier.

“Then Manchester United played a friendly against Sporting Lisbon and all their boys said to Sir Alex Ferguson, “You have to sign him”. But I agreed with not breaking the wage structure. I thought it would cause problems in our dressing room.

“I know some of the signings were not as sharp as they could have been. Maybe we would have won the title with Ronaldo, but we had Harry Kewell, who was outstanding at the time and was very hungry but got a bad injury. After that, he never had the same confidence, the same appetite.”

Aston Villa will meet Liverpool on Monday night at a BPL match.


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