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Le Tallec, Anthony

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ANTHONY LE TALLEC 2003-08

 

by Dave Usher

 

Date of Birth - 03/10/84

Nationality - French

Position - Forward

Cost - £3.5m

Games - 32

Goals - 1

Club Hons (Lpool) - 2005 Champions League

Club Hons (Other) - None

Intnl Hons - French Youth/U21 Caps

Other Clubs - Le Havre, St Ettienne (loan), Sunderland (loan), Sochaux

 

Rarely before has a player's arrival been more eagerly anticipated by Liverpool supporters than when teenage star Anthony Le Tallec finally joined the reds from French club Le Havre in the summer of 2003.

 

Liverpool had done a deal for the young playmaker two years earlier, when Gerard Houllier stole a march on a whole host of top clubs to secure his signature along with his equally gifted Le Havre team-mate and closest friend Florent Sinama-Pongolle. The pair had helped France to win the World U16 championships, with Le Tallec being voting the Silver Ball winner for the tournaments most impressive player, and Sinama picking up the Golden Boot for the top goalscorer.

 

Every major club in Europe were sniffing around the pair, but it was Houllier who got in first and persuaded them to join the reds. It was seen as a major coup. But although Liverpool fans had heard a lot about the pair, it would be two years before they would finally see them line up in a red shirt. They were actually due to remain on loan at Le Havre for another season, but when the club were relegated from the top flight, Houllier felt that a year in Liverpool's reserves would be more benficial than staying to play in the French Second Division.

 

 

Their first appearance for Liverpool on British shores came in a pre-season game at Crewe, and those present left Gresty Road buzzing after the display of Le Tallec. Entering the field as a substitute for the injured Harry Kewell just before half time, the young midfielder put on a second half masterclass of passing and vision. His touch was assured, his passing sublime and he was also not afraid to put his foot in. It seemed all the hype about the 'New Platini' may indeed have been justified. He'd caught the eye on the club's tour to the far east, and such was the impact made by both Anthony and Florent, that Houllier declared that both were actually more advanced than he thought, and would be involved with the senior set up far more quickly than he envisaged.

 

Two well taken goals from Tony against Fleetwood Town further enhanced his reputation, and he made the bench for the opening day encounter with Chelsea. His senior debut came the following week as a sub in a goalless draw at Villa Park. Overall, Tony's first season at the club was satisfactory, but understandably he failed to live up to the unfair expectations many had of him due to all the hype before his arrival. As the team struggled, Le Tallec was often used out of position on the right of midfield.

 

Ideally, he would have played either as a second striker or as a central player behind two forwards, but he was only used in that role once, when he scored in a UEFA Cup tie at Anfield against Olimpija.

 

The longer Anthony spent at the club, the less likely it ever looked that he would manage to nail down a regular starting place. When Rafa Benitez took over the club, Le Tallec scored twice in a pre-season friendly at Wrexham, and then told Benitez he expected to be a regular starter. When he was told that was unlikely to be the case, Le Tallec asked for a loan move, which was granted.

 

He spent much of Benitez's first season at the club on loan at St Ettienne, returning midway through the season after a fall out with their coach. He was surprisingly selected to face Juventus in the CL quarter final 1st leg at Anfield, and produced a good performance to remind people what he was capable of. It was a rare opportunity for him however, and the following season he was again off out on loan, this time to Sunderland.

 

It was during this spell that he committed an act that would finish him in the eyes of many Liverpool supporters. Sunderland faced Manchester United at Old Trafford on the anniversary of Hillsborough, and whereas most of the players wore black armband (including the likes of Gary Neville), the one player actually connected with Liverpool - Le Tallec - refused to wear one.

 

The following year he was again farmed out on loan, this time to French club Sochaux, and then on to Le Mans the following year. He departed Anfield amidst little fanfare when his contract expired in the summer of 2008. 'Le Gem' had turned out to be a fugaze.

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