Patrik Berger: When I was growing up, Liverpool were an unbelievable team
Trophies are few and far between on Merseyside these days. Despite Brendan Rodgers and his team’s best efforts last season in the English Premier League, silverware remains elusive to Liverpool Football Club.
It's no surprise therefore, the 2000/01 season remains a much cherished memory among Liverpool fans. Under Gerard Houllier, the Reds achieved a historic treble — picking up the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup trophies. Playing a big part that season was a certain Patrik Berger — the Czech playmaker setting up Michael Owen for the winner two minutes from time in the FA Cup against Arsenal. Berger's lethal left-footed strikes and surging runs down the wings made him a fan favourite amongst the Kopites.
It was a dream when I found out that Liverpool were interested in me and when I signed the deal, the dream came true.
The former Borussia Dortmund player went on to star for Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Stoke City before a niggling knee injury resulted in his retirement from football in 2010 whilst playing for Sparta Prague in his native Czech Republic.
Berger was in Singapore to attend a press conference held to announce Ian Rush’s appointment as player-manager for the Castlewood Group Liverpool Masters, due to be played on 15 November 2014. FourFourTwo caught up with him to discuss the upcoming match in Singapore and the Reds' current plight among other matters.
Masters Football returns but this time as a 11-a side full field match. How different will it be for you and the players on your team?
Firstly, the intensity will be different for sure but I still play football occasionally so it wouldn’t be a problem for me. We are experienced and we have a good squad with players who are still fit so I am expecting a good standard on the field.
Are you expecting a good game on the pitch against the Singapore legends?
I think it’s great that this match will be a testimonial game for Aleks (Duric) and I have heard great things so I am expecting a tough game.
Quite a number of fans turned up just to see the Liverpool legends in action last year at the Masters tournament so what kind of turnout are you expecting this time around?
The Liverpool fan base in Singapore is huge and I think it is going to be full house at the stadium and I am really looking forward to the match and the great atmosphere on the day itself.
You have had a glittering career with countless memories to savour but what would you say was the best moment in your football career?
The best moment is when I signed the contract with Liverpool. It was a dream when I found out that Liverpool were interested in me and when I signed the deal, the dream came true. When I was growing up, in the 80s, Liverpool were an unbelievable team and they were winning everything so to think that one day I would end up playing for them was unthinkable but it happened!
You have worked with some great coaches. Who would you say was the best you have worked with?
Harry Redknapp. He was the best manager. He is a fantastic person, a great psychologist and the sessions we had with were really enjoyable. I had a great time in the two years I had with him at Portsmouth.
If there is one player in world football that you would sign for Liverpool right now, who would it be?
Of course, Lionel Messi. He is simply the best footballer in the world. Simple as that.
Liverpool have not had the greatest of starts to their season so far. Do you think it is down purely to the loss of Luis Suarez ?
To replace Suarez is not an easy task because he is a fantastic player. He was involved in more than 50 percent of the goals they scored last year. They have spent a lot in trying to build a good team again but so far it not working.
Was Mario Balotelli a good purchase to cover for the loss of Suarez ?
Balotelli is a good player and has good quality, he has proven it in the past but he is no Suarez. At the moment, nothing is happening for the team and him. You can see that they are trying but it is just not happening for them. They are not playing well but I think when Sturridge is back fit, he can make a difference for the team. I am expecting them to win against West Brom at the weekend, and hopefully that will kick their season forward.
Your countryman and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has been playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois so far this season. What do you make of his situation?
I think he made a good decision to stay actually because it is a new challenge. But he will see in January what is going to happen and if by then, the situation remains the same, I am sure he will move on and he won’t struggle for offers at all because he is still a top, top keeper.
Professional players often go into coaching when they hang up their boots. Will you be going down that line anytime soon?
Me? No chance! No coaching for me! My intention now is to get my [golf] handicap down!
Patrik Berger will be appearing at the Castlewood Group Liverpool Masters on November 15, 2014. Tickets for the game start at $10 and can be purchased at www.ticketbooth.com.sg.