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Liverpool winger signed in £1.5m controversy but left with Champions League medal after 'beautiful season'

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READ MORE: Liverpool have got it right about Jarrod Bowen and £89m duo prove it READ MORE: Five new images of Liverpool's stadium development as Anfield Road End takes shape Gerard Houllier’s five and a half year reign in sole charge had ended in the sad and rare spectacle of a sacked manager holding a leaving press conference, the glittering promise of the 2001 Treble and Premier League runners-up spot the following year fading drastically after the Frenchman’s life-threatening heart problems with the bare minimum expectation of Champions League qualification only achieved in the final week of his final campaign in charge.

The Portuguese coach, whose stock was rapidly rising after leading FC Porto to UEFA Cup and Champions League triumphs in successive seasons, was reportedly considered by the Liverpool hierarchy as Houllier’s replacement but they ultimately plumped for the other top young coach who had also been making serious waves across Europe in recent seasons.

I thought: 'Okay, English football is going to be hard'.” Nunez made his full debut three days in the League Cup quarter-final away at Tottenham which an under-strength and youthful Reds side took to penalties after a 1-1 draw before winning the shoot-out, and he kept his place for the following two matches, a 1-1 Premier League draw away to Aston Villa and the iconic final Champions League group stage fixture against Olympiacos at Anfield which Liverpool needed to win either 1-0 or by two clear goals to reach the knock-out stages.

It’s fair to say that is how a sizeable proportion of Liverpool supporters would regard Antonio Nunez, if they can remember him at all that is with his name usually only mentioned in ‘worst Liverpool XIs’.

Nunez would start Liverpool’s final three home Premier League matches against Tottenham, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa but his final significant contribution came on the night those privileged enough to be inside Anfield will never forget - the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against a Chelsea side who only three days earlier had been crowned runaway Premier League champions.

One of the biggest initial tasks in his in-tray was to deal with the ongoing situation regarding star striker Michael Owen's future.

“That was my first ever Champions League game,” he said.
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