“Very close, it was a record fee”: How Liverpool beat Man Utd to defender after Red Devils refused to pay higher wages

Markus Babbel reveals how Manchester United tried to sign him for what would have been a record fee but refused to match it with high wages.

The former Liverpool star was “very close” to joining the Anfield outfit’s greatest rivals but reveals his agent warned him against an Old Trafford move.

His representative told him that despite United being willing to pay what was “a record fee”, some 40 million German Franks, they weren’t offering a similarly high pay packet to Babbel.

His agent said: “Listen Markus, there is something wrong.”

Markus Babbel

Babbel told the Liverpool ECHO: “(I was) very close. At this time, it was a record fee, nobody had ever been signed for that fee before. It was 40 million German Marks at the time.

“I was talking to United, but my agent said to me, ‘Listen Markus, there is something wrong. They are willing to pay this much on your transfer fee, but your salary is okay, nothing more. With this money on the transfer fee, they should be paying a lot higher wages.’

“I said, ‘Okay, I don’t have to leave if it’s not right, I’m happy to stay at Bayern Munich.’

Markus Babbel

“It’s a fantastic club and afterwards, with hindsight, I’m so happy it didn’t happen. They wanted to sign me as a centre back, but I wasn’t the best at centre back!

In Germany I always played with three at the back, so it was a different game for me: three versus two centre backs. The right side was the perfect position for me in that United back four, but they had Gary Neville, one of the greatest right backs at the time.

“I’m so glad I listened to my agent and waited to go to Liverpool.”

Liverpool strike again years later to beat United to top defenders

Babbel’s move to Liverpool in 2000 may have been a foreshadowing of things to come much later.

Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk

The Times reported in 2019 that Manchester United had belatedly attempted to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton before his switch to Liverpool was made official only to be told that “the defender had already completed his medical on Merseyside”.

History would repeat itself in a damning assessment of United’s transfer strategies and a glowing review of the way Liverpool go about recruiting the hottest talent in Europe when the Old Trafford outfit made contact with RB Leipzig.

They were interested in Ibrahima Konate but a Liverpool move for the Frenchman was already so advanced that when they made contact with the Bundesliga outfit, they were told that the soon-to-be Reds no.5 had already agreed on personal terms with Liverpool.

Michael Mongie
Football Central Media Group founder, owner and editor.


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