Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has revealed he tried to sign Welsh superstar Gareth Bale in 2006 as a rising star in Southampton's ranks.
According to the Guardian, the Spaniard claimed to have been interested in acquiring Bale's services during his spell with the Reds.
He said: "Back in 2006 I went see Bolton-Southampton. We transferred a player to Southampton but they wouldn't give us Bale."
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"Then we tried to sign him, we couldn't."
The 26-year-old Bale began his career at Southampton and became their second youngest player to play for them at 16 years and 275 days. The winger spent the majority of his time at Southampton as an attacking left-back before making the transition to left-midfield whilst at Tottenham.
Bale earned his superstar reputation with the Lilywhites after completing his move in 2007, and fully established himself as a world-class player when he score a spectacular hat-trick against Inter Milan in the Champions League in 2010.
Since then, the Welshman's career has rocketed, scoring 26 goals in all competitions for Tottenham during the 2012-13 season and earning himself a move to Madrid as a result, becoming the world's most expensive player with a fee of £85.3 million.
Benitez, though, said he recognised his talents as a teenager at Southampton.
"I've known for a long time he was a great player," he said.
Benitez won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup and Charity Shield in his first two seasons in charge of Liverpool after arriving from Valencia in 2004.
The then Reds boss failed to win anything else before his departure in 2010, though, with there little doubt that Bale could have proven key to sustained success, especially when surrounded and supplied by the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres.
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