Football world pays tribute to Liverpool legend who turned down Australia - and regretted it
The Frenchman is most fondly remembered in Liverpool for leading the club to a historic treble in 2001 as the Reds won the FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup in the same season.
He also had spells in charge of Aston Villa, Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon and the France national team and was memorably offered the Socceroos job – twice – and admitted regretting turning it down.
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In 2006, while he was at Lyon after leaving Liverpool, media reports in England linked Houllier with replacing Guus Hiddink in charge of Australia after the World Cup in Germany of that year.
Hiddink was set to take over as coach of Russia and Australia were prepared to come to the same arrangement as they had with the Dutchman in agreeing to a part-time role for Houllier.
The FFA even released a statement confirming talks with him, although denying that an agreement had already been reached – with Houllier ultimately deciding to stay with Lyon for another year.
Houllier, on a trip to Australia in 2016 to manage a Liverpool legends team against Socceroos legends, confirmed there had been an offer twice, with then FFA chairman Steven Lowy also approaching him about the role in 2004-05.
“It happened twice – once in 2004-05, and the second time after the World Cup in 2006, after Guus (Hiddink) had done his work,” Houllier told the Daily Telegraph. “To be fair, Frank was good – he came to see me both times, the first time he came to my holiday home.
“You know sometimes I regret not doing it. Probably in 2006 I should have done it. But this is life.”
However, because of his close friendship with Lowy, Australia always had a place in his heart and he even helped advise over the search for a new head coach in 2018, which was ultimately given to Graham Arnold.
Rest in peace to such an amazing gentleman. Thanks so much for your time and mentorship LEGEND. Always made time no matter what and I'll be forever grateful. pic.twitter.com/aVPpfSjwOd— TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) December 14, 2020
Absolutely devastated by the news about Gerard Houllier, I was in touch with him only last month to arrange him coming to Liverpool. Loved that man to bits, he changed me as a person & as a player & got @LFC back winning trophies. RIP Boss.