In a season in which Jurgen Klopp’s former player Ilkay Gundogan snatched the Premier League title away from him, it could be a player he let slip through his grasp deal him the most damage of all.
Brazilian sensation Rodrygo has truly come of age this campaign and has been Real Madrid’s man for the big occasion.
The 21-year-old has scored seven goals in his past 10 games to help Real seal another La Liga title but his biggest contribution has been in Europe.
Rodrygo came off the bench to force extra-time against Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals and then came the game of his life.
His dramatic two late goals rescued Madrid against Manchester City in the final four and sealed a place in the Paris showpiece fixture this weekend.
And it should be fitting that Rodrygo will be lining up against Liverpool considering if things had been different he would have been playing for them.
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During Klopp’s first full season in charge of the Reds, he had tried to sign Rodrygo when he was only a teenager.
The flying winger was still plying his trade in his homeland but captivated Klopp so much he flew to Sao Paulo personally to make further checks on his development.
His agent, Nick Arcuri, explained to Canal do Nicola: “When Rodrygo went to sign his first professional contract with Santos, aged 16, a Liverpool director called me saying that Klopp already knew the player, had seen the material, had already come to see Rodrygo personally.
“He had gone on YouTube, searched ‘talents from Brazil’, Rodrygo had appeared and he was very young.
“He came to Brazil and liked him. They contacted me, the Liverpool director wanted him to be his first signing, Rodrygo. ”
Former City midfielder Elano was working as Santos assistant coach in early 2017 when he got wind of Liverpool’s cut-price deal.
“I went to the board and said, ‘No, no, we can not let him leave for this,'” he told BBC Sport.
“It was a 3m euro offer only and the talks were already at an advanced stage. It was pretty much a done deal. They had a verbal agreement but I insisted, ‘We can not do this’.
“He was just 16 years old back then and, although the team had high hopes for him, it was not clear yet when he would be playing for the senior side. So I went to Rodrygo and told him, ‘We will promote you soon. You have my word. ‘
“A little while after, I ended up taking charge as a caretaker manager and so, much sooner than expected, I could do what I had promised him.
“I brought him to train with us and gave him his first minutes as a professional footballer.”
Rodrygo ultimately did spend another season at Santos but a year later he was at Anfield signing for a new club… only it was not Liverpool!
Most of the Kop had eyes on Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and former hero Philippe Coutinho when Brazil beat Croatia 2-0 at Anfield in a World Cup warm-up match in June 2018.
Yet just meters away from the pitch in a box at Liverpool’s historic ground, Rodrygo was putting the finishing touches on a move to Madrid.
On the eve of the game, Santos’ then president Jose Carlos Peres with Real sporting director Juni Calafat in a cafe next to Brazil’s team hotel in Liverpool.
“Our talk did not last more than 30 minutes. “They had come to Liverpool to close a deal and were not willing to leave the table without one,” Peres told Bleacher Report.
At the time, Rodrygo had also attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Barcelona but he had his heart set on Madrid.
Just weeks earlier, the £ 40million star had watched Los Blancos beat Liverpool 3-1 in the Champions League final.
Madrid haven’t won Europe’s biggest prize since but if they are to beat Klopp’s Reds again, you can bet Rodrygo will have something to say about it…
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