Juninho says that he almost joined Liverpool upon Middlesbrough’s relegation from the Premier League in 1997.
The Brazilian joined Boro in 1995, and quickly established himself as a fan favourite at the Riverside Stadium.
Despite impressing at the club, he could not rescue them from relegation on the final day of the 1996/97 Premier League season.
Juninho was reduced to tears after a 1-1 draw with Leeds on the final day secured Boro’s fate, and he would leave that summer to join Atletico Madrid. He remains one of the best players to ever suffer relegation from the top flight.
“If l could go back to the past, l would never leave English football when I did,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I had the chance to go to Liverpool in 1997. The manager [Roy Evans] spoke to my father but I had already given my word to Atletico Madrid.”
Juninho returned for two further spells at Middlesbrough, one on loan and one permanent, before retiring in 2010.
His record of 29 Premier League goals for a Brazilian was recently broken by Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, and the 44-year-old reserved high praise for his countryman.
“I am delighted that he takes my record. I can’t think of anyone better – the record couldn’t be in better hands,” he said.
“Coutinho can be considered, after Neymar, the best player in Brazil. He’s different class and he deserves everything he is achieving because he has worked very hard for it.
“If you have an intelligence to your game then you can find the space on the pitch and because the game in England is so fast that means a lot of the time it is also very open.
“One of Coutinho’s biggest qualities is that ability to find the space. People think that type of player will have more difficulties adapting to English football than say Spanish football but in England I found a lot more space than I did in Spain. The intensity is there but if you get past the first wave of pressure then the pitch opens up.”