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‘I cried after being left out of Champions League final – I couldn’t join trophy parade’

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One former Liverpool star has opened up on his time at the club and his relationship with Rafa Benitez, admitting he was reduced to tears after being omitted from the 2005 Champions League final.

Former Liverpool forward Anthony Le Tallec has admitted his heartbreak at being left our of the 2005 Champions League final squad.

The Frenchman has shared how Rafa Benitez’s harsh treatment brought him to tears after he asked to leave Anfield on loan. Gerard Houllier had initially brought him and Florent Sinama Pongolle to Merseyside from Le Havre in 2001, though they didn’t actually move until two years later.

And Le Tallec, 39, had another tear-worthy moment when he was omitted from the 18-man squad that met AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final, per the Liverpool Echo. That’s despite helping the club on their quest to reach Istanbul before he was brutally dropped for the decider.

“In 2005, Benitez didn’t include me in the squad for the Champions League final,” he recounted. “It made me cry.”

The result was him missing out on one of the most famous nights in European football history. Liverpool famously came from three goals down to draw 3-3 against the Rossoneri, with Jerzy Dudek’s shootout heroics clinching the crown in Turkey’s capital.

Having been signed by countryman Houllier, Le Tallec’s spirits took a turn under his successor. Benitez – who admitted he tried to sign both Le Tallec and Sinama Pongolle at Valencia – granted the former’s request to leave on loan, and he was farmed out to Saint-Etienne in August 2004.

'I cried after being left out of Champions League final – I couldn't join trophy parade'

Recalled by Liverpool in January 2005, the forward admitted at the time he should have stayed put at Anfield: “Looking back now it was the wrong decision for me to have made. I should have stayed here and fought for my place. I’m young and I just wanted to play. I have taken over the number 13 shirt – hopefully it won’t be unlucky for me!”

Le Tallec went on to make seven appearances for the Reds during the second half of 2004/05 campaign, most memorably assisting Luis Garcia’s spectacular strike against Juventus in the Champions League quarter-final. However, he claimed his request to leave led to a breakdown in his relationship with Benitez – and believes it proved fatal to his career as a whole.

'I cried after being left out of Champions League final – I couldn't join trophy parade'

When asked the biggest regret from his career, Le Tallec – who retired in 2021 – told L’Equipe: “For having asked Rafael Benitez to leave on loan. I was stupid and he was mad at me. I came back from Saint-Etienne in January because there were injuries at Liverpool and, at the end of the season, Benitez said to me: ”For me, you are crazy. You were one of the three attackers, now I put you in eighth place.’

“I was young, but he didn’t want to know anything and lent me every year. I blame him. My career could have been different, but that one thing was fatal for me.”

His prospects at Anfield would have improved considering Michael Owen left for Real Madrid in 2004. That left only Milan Baros and Djibril Cisse as Benitez’s senior forwards, while young players Sinama Pongolle and Neil Mellor were also on the team.

'I cried after being left out of Champions League final – I couldn't join trophy parade'

Benitez had bought Fernando Morientes from Real Madrid for £6.3million in January 2005 when Le Tallec came back, even though Morientes couldn’t play in Europe and Cisse was out injured. Though Le Tallec watched the 2005 decider from the stands, he didn’t feel happy at the win or participate in the victorious parade through Liverpool.

He revealed: “Harry Kewell came back from injury but was injured again after 20 minutes. I was in the stands during the final, but I didn’t celebrate the title in Istanbul or take part in the parade through Liverpool. I stayed at home, I was too sad.”

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Le Tallec’s final appearances for Liverpool were in two Champions League qualifying matches against TNS before being loaned to Sunderland for the 2005/06 season, which ended in relegation. He was eventually sold to Le Mans for £1.1m in the summer of 2008.

He mostly played in France’s top leagues with Auxerre, Valenciennes, Orleans, and Annecy, and had brief spells in Greece and Romania with Atromitos and Astra Giurgiu. It’s up for debate as to whether it’s merited for the player to put so much blame on Benitez, especially since it was Le Tallec who wanted to leave Liverpool in the first place.

 

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