Czech Republic star Milan Baros, was
widely regarded as one of the hottest properties in Europe when
he arrived at Anfield. Described as having lightning speed,
an eye for goal as well as being physically strong, he first
came to Gerard Houllier's attention whilst playing for the Czechs
in the European Under 21 Championships in 2000.
The Czechs had an outstanding tournament,
and apparently Houllier wanted to sign up half of the team,
but was foiled due to the work permit restrictions put on English
Baros hit the net 9 times in 14 games
for the Czech under 21's, and was swiftly called up to the Czech
His performances for his country and
his club, Banik Ostrava, attracted the attention of scouts from
all over Europe. Borrussia Dortmund coach Matthias Sammer
went on several spying missions to watch Baros in action, and
was reportedly desperate to add the talented young frontman
to his squad.
Juventus and Inter Milan were also keen
on the youngster, who was dubbed "The Ostravan Maradona" due
to his dribbling skills and exciting style.
Baros represented the Czechs in the Sydney
Olympics in 2000, and his debut for the full side came against
Belgiumin 2002, and not surprisingly he marked the occasion
with a goal. He followed that up with a goal on his second
appearance too, scoring in the 90th minute against Northern
Ireland after coming on as a substitute.
Shortly after that game he appeared on
Czech TV stating his desire to join international team-mates
Patrik Berger and Vladimir Smicer at Liverpool. He revealed
that the reds had been showing an interest in him for a while
and said: "It's just great. Patrik and Vlada said
that Liverpool were a wonderful club to play for."
Just over a month later and he got his
wish, as Gerard Houllier finally got his man. Baros' arrival
was overshadowed slightly by the fact that Nicolas Anelka also
joined at that time, arriving on loan from Paris St Germain.
Despite his outstanding pedigree, Baros
made a less than impressive start to his career on Merseyside,
struggling to hit top form and looking overweight and showing
a distinct lack of fitness during his appearances for the reserves.
As the season wore on, his sharpness
seemed to be returning and his performances improved, but he
was still way short of the levels expected of him.
His only first team appearance came as
a late substitute in the Nou Camp against Barcelona, and it
was widely rumoured that Houllier was prepared to offload the
youngster the following summer.
Lens claimed that Baros was offered to
them as part of a deal for El Hadji Diouf, whilst it was also
suggested that the young Czech had been offered to Sporting
Lisbon along with Igor Biscan for Portuguese starlet Hugo Vianna.
But Baros was keen to stay and prove
himself, and shed over a stone in the close season, returning
to Liverpool a totally different player.
He tormented AC Milan in a pre-season
friendly, even drawing high praise frm the legendary Paolo Maldini,
and when hi full debut arrived at Bolton's Reebok stadium, Baros
struck two great goals to make himself a hero with the Liverpool
He enjoyed a fine season, even though
he was often left on the bench in favour of Emile Heskey. Despite
that, he finished as the side's joint second top scorer with
Danny Murphy after having hit 12 goals.
At the start of the 2003/04 season, Milan
was really pushing for a starting place, and looked to have
finally become the first choice partner for Michael Owen when
he broke his ankle against Blackburn.
He missed five months of the season,
but returned to the side as a substitute in the FA Cup loss
at Portsmouth in February. A couple of weeks later his first
goal of the season came when he danced around a couple of defenders
and lashed home a powerful shot from 18 yards at Elland Road
Another goal followed in the UEFA Cup tie with Marseille, and
he was back in business for his country too, scoring in a 2-1
defeat against the Irish at Lansdowne Road.
It wasn't long before he found himself back on the bench though,
as Houllier's preference for the ineffective left Baros frustrated
and the fans bewildered.
It looked like the popular Czech was headed out of Anfield
when he joined up with his national side for the European Championships,
but whilst he was in Portugal Houllier was replaced by Rafa
Benitez, and a fresh start beckoned for Milan.
He was a revelation in Euro 2004, firing the Czech's to the
semi finals and ending the competition as the leading scorer.
On his return to Liverpool, he picked up where he had left
off for the Czech's, and began the 2004/05 season in dazzling
form before being derailed by a persistent hamstring injury.