By Liverpool correspondent Coral Barry
Rafael Benitez turned up the opportunity to sign Gareth Bale because he thought he was no better than John Arne Riise, according to Jamie Carragher.
The former Liverpool manager considered signing Bale from Southampton during his time at Anfield, after he emerged as one of the most promising full-backs in the British football.
But Liverpool legend Carragher says the current Real Madrid boss rejected Bale because he thought that the Welshman was not as good as Riise.
“Bale has come so far since making his way at Southampton,” wrote Carragher in the Daily Mail. “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.“
Carragher accepts that Bale was then a completely different player to the one who is now in line to become one of the best British footballers ever – having been the driving force for his national team in the European Qualifiers with six goals in eight games to steer them to their first major tournament since 1958 with one match remaining.
Carragher added: “Clearly the Bale that Benítez 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.”