Boudewijn Zenden’s Liverpool career was shorter than it might have been, hindered by a cruciate ligament injury which kept him sidelined for much of his first season at Anfield.
But he was certainly a solid player, often cruelly overlooked when remembering the talented players of the Reds’ recent past.
While he spent much of two years on Merseyside on the treatment table, he featured more in his second season and is remembered fondly for his performances — and for scoring the first penalty in the subsequent shootout — against former club Chelsea in the semi-final of the Champions League in 2007.
He also played in the final against a Milan side out for revenge two years after Istanbul, and scored goals against West Ham United and Portsmouth in the Premier League. Not bad for a left midfielder who arrived on a free transfer.
As it turns out, we have a certain Sangria-drinking Spaniard to thank for his arrival at Liverpool — or at least in part.
Zenden was signed from Middlesborough in the summer of 2005, weeks after the Reds had lifted their fifth Champions League trophy in extraordinary circumstances at the Atatürk Stadium.
Speaking exclusively to Jay Pearson and Mick Moran on The Kopite Podcast, the Dutchman revealed how it was Luis García who made the first call to tell him of then-manager Rafa Benítez’s interest in signing him — before his Liverpool team had completed that famous comeback against the Rossoneri.
Zenden said: “I already had contact with Luis García. I played with him in Barcelona when he came through the ranks and he left and made his career. He was the first one to contact me about the interest of Liverpool, before I even spoke to Rafa.
“I’ve known Rafa now for quite some time and I know how he works, but before he starts negotiating he wants to know if a player is interested or not through different channels.
“So I spoke to Luis about a possible move and then I started to chat to Rafa, so I already knew of the interest before Liverpool took on Milan in that famous game when they were 3-0 down at half-time and came back and won it. I was watching that game in a different way than some other people did.
“That was the first contact and then over the summer after Liverpool won the Champions League, the deal was done.”