Jamie Carragher has revealed the reason why Rafael Benitez opted against bringing Gareth Bale to Liverpool when the Welshman broke into Southampton’s first team back in 2006.
Benitez - according to Carragher in his latest column for the Daily Mail - looked at signing the current Real Madrid superstar but decided against making a formal move because he didn’t think he was any better than John Arne Riise.
Bale was playing at left-back at the time but went on to become one of the best attacking players on the planet - as well as the most expensive footballer of all time.
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The former Tottenham star, of course, now finds himself playing under Benitez at the Bernabeu - and Carragher doesn’t put too much blame on his former manager for failing to sign the Welsh star during his teenage years.
“He has come so far since making his way at Southampton,” Carragher writes. “When he broke into their team, Rafa Benitez looked at signing him for Liverpool. Bale was playing as a left back then and Rafa didn't think he was any better than John Arne Riise, so he never pursued it.
“Clearly the Bale that Benitez now manages is a completely different prospect. Bale has been a success in Madrid, his stunning solo goal against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final and the header that gave Real the lead against Atletico Madrid as they pursued their 10th European Cup were both moments that only the special ones produce.”
Carragher also believes that Bale has the ability to inspire Real Madrid to European domination and feels what he has managed to achieve with Wales during the Euro 2016 qualification campaign is “remarkable”.
Benitez can be forgiven for Bale decision
Even if Benitez had signed Bale back in 2006, though, it’s still likely that the Welshman would have eventually joined Real Madrid - the club he’s had a soft spot for since he was a boy.
It was Bale’s ambition to turn out for Los Blancos that eventually forced Tottenham’s hand in the summer of 2013.
That Benitez felt at the time that Riise was a better option than Bale isn’t as outlandish as it sounds, either.
Riise was a fine attacking left-back in his pomp and will always occupy a special place in the hearts of Liverpool fans thanks to seven years of great service.
Liverpool fans: was Rafael Benitez stupid for rejecting Gareth Bale in favour of John Arne Riise? Have your say by leaving a comment in the box below!