|Date of Birth||
20 February 1971
|Place of Birth||
1.82 m (6'0")
Jari Olavi Litmanen (born 20 February 1971) is a retired Finnish footballer who played for Liverpool between 2001 to 2002. He joined Liverpool from Barcelona on a free transfer, and went on to play 43 games in all competitions for the Reds, scoring nine goals. Litmanen rejoined his former club Ajax at the end of the 2001-02 season.
After struggling to settle at Barcelona, in part due to injuries, Litmanen moved to Liverpool on 4 January 2001 on a free transfer. Manager Gerard Houllier was ecstatic over signing the Finn, saying "We have signed a world-class player. He comes with a massive reputation and I believe he's one of the most exciting signings we have made". Litmanen reciprocated the feeling, saying that it was his "dream to play for Liverpool" and, "I have supported them since I was a child and there has been talk about me joining them before."
Litmanen wished to be given the number seven shirt upon signing, stating "Keegan and Dalglish were extra special to me because they played in my best position, just behind the main strikers. That is why the no 7 shirt had a special attraction I am more than happy to settle for 37, anything with a 7 in it will do." Liverpool had actually tried to sign Litmanen twice before he eventually put pen to paper; once under Roy Evans, but insufficient funds halted a possible deal, and a second time shortly before he joined Barcelona.
Litmanen made his Liverpool debut on 10 January 2001 in the League Cup semi-final first leg against Crystal Palace in a 2-1 defeat. He came on as a 64th minute substitute for Danny Murphy. His full debut came in Liverpool's next match, against Aston Villa in a 3-0 victory on 13 January 2001. Dietmar Hamann later commented on Litmanen's performance in this game, saying "his performance on his debut at Aston Villa was one of the best I've ever seen in a Liverpool shirt." He opened his goalscoring account at Liverpool with a 79th minute equaliser from the penalty spot against Sunderland on 10 February 2001.
By March 2001, Litmanen had established himself as regular fixture in the side, appearing in 11 matches in four different competetions. However, a broken wrist sustained while on international duty meant his debut season was cut short. Litmanen's luck did not improve in his next season in a Liverpool shirt, with niggling injuries restricting him to just 21 league appearances. Most of his appearances in the 2001-02 season came from the bench, but he still managed to bag himself seven goals, including a goal in a Champions League semi-final against Bayern Levekusen which almost put Liverpool into the final.
Gerard Houllier allowed Litmanen to leave the club on a free transfer to return to Ajax at the end of the season, despite him wanting to stay at the club. Houllier explained his reasoning behind letting Litmanen go, saying "You know, Jari wanted to stay, and I couldn't understand that. But I let him go because I have always believed he had great potential which could benefit other teams." Litmanen offered his take on Houllier, saying "It's strange that he was so pleased when he signed me and then decided to not use me. I cannot explain it myself." He made a total of 43 appearances for Liverpool during his one and a half seasons at the club, scoring nine goals along the way. Although his Liverpool career never quite lived up to expectation, Litmanen was fondly regarded by the Liverpool fans who voted him into 69th place in the 2006 100 Players Who Shook The Kop list.
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