‘Patrik Berger was the first to tell me about LFC’s interest’

'Patrik Berger was the first to tell me about LFC's interest'

Eager to avoid appearing insincere, the midfielder opted not to reveal upon signing that he had followed the Reds from afar growing up in Czechoslovakia, or that he classed Kenny Dalglish as his 'childhood hero'. As such, it is easy to understand why the six-month wait for rumours of interest from Anfield to become something more concrete was so excruciating. Smicer did not even have confirmation that he was a target from either then Reds boss Gerard Houllier, or his club of the time, Lens. Initially, the only word he heard from Liverpool came courtesy of an unusual source: Patrik Berger. As he explains in '60 Minutes with… Vladimir Smicer', which premieres on LFCTV at 9pm BST this evening: Patrik was the first to tell me Liverpool were interested in me [because] Steve McManaman [could] go to Real Madrid as he didn't sign a new contract. He said, 'There's a place for you'. There were talks between the clubs and I had to wait because it was not easy but in the end it happened. He told me in January and so [over] six months we were hoping it was going to happen at the end of the season. I can say that even in May it was not done, I was not sure if I would really go or not because there was a question over the price. Three years earlier, it had been Berger attracting admiring glances from Anfield, and facing a decision over whether to make the switch from Borussia Dortmund. Then, he had Smicer – a former Slavia Prague teammate and international colleague – in his ear urging him to relocate to Merseyside. I was very happy for him because we always roomed together with the Czech national team, Smicer explained. I knew Liverpool were interested in signing him and I said, 'Hey buddy, if you have the chance to go to Liverpool, go!' It was a big name, Liverpool, in my eyes it was a dream to come to Liverpool. So when I saw he had the chance I supported him and I said, 'You have to go, it's still better than Dortmund.' The pair were, of course, eventually reunited at Anfield, and created unforgettable memories together as part of the treble-winning squad of 2000-01 before Berger left for Portsmouth two years later. The two seasons that followed were injury-hit and frustrating for Smicer and, for that reason, he knew his own Liverpool career was coming to a close as the end of the 2004-05 campaign neared. He had not even expected to be part of the squad to face AC Milan in the Champions League final, but was named as a substitute before being thrown…

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