Brutal Liverpool exit of treble hero, last man to play for both Merseyside clubs

In a modern context, £4million sounds like very little for a top class goalkeeper.

But when Liverpool shelled out that fee to upgrade their shot-stopper back in 1999 it represented the most money ever spent on the position in British football.

David James was the man to make way when Sander Westerveld arrived from Vitesse tasked with leading the Reds back to glory.

The Dutchman got off to a fine start, saving a Davor Suker penalty in victory over Arsenal less than a month into his Premier League career.

Just as Alisson shored up the Reds defence after his £66.8million move from Roma in 2018, Westerveld was at the base of a transformed Liverpool back line in 1999/00.

Gerard Houllier’s side conceded the fewest goals in the top flight and returned to Europe with the new No.1 missing just two league games.

He also went some way to endearing himself to the Liverpool fans after a bust-up with Francis Jeffers in the Merseyside derby.

Both men were sent off, with Steven Gerrard later dismissed.

It was the last time Everton won at Anfield, via Kevin Campbell’s goal, but Westerveld wore his heart on his sleeve.

The next day, he was called into Houllier’s office expecting a grilling. Instead, his character and determination to win the derby was praised.

The following campaign, he was a mainstay in a treble-winning year, making the winning save from Andy Johnson in the League Cup ffnal penalty shoot-out.

“It was all going great for me and the cherry on the cake was Liverpool,” Westerveld told Planet Football last year. “My dream was always to play in England and Liverpool was my club.”

After the League Cup final win, the Reds went on an impressive run in cup competitions, culminating in FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory.

But, for Westerveld, doubts were starting to creep in and his dream was under increasing pressure of imploding.

Their European glory came with the Reds conceding four goals, winning a nine-goal thriller against Alaves.

When he returned for the following season, he made a high-profile error early in the season against Bolton Wanderers on August 27.

In response, he was brutally benched by Houllier, who promptly purchased two goalkeepers, Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland, before deadline day.

After two years of barely missing a game, Westerveld suddenly found himself surplus the requirements and, in mid-December, he was sold to Real Sociedad for £3.4million.

“I know what happened, but I still don’t understand it,” Westerveld told Planet Football. “From day one, Houllier told me and the press that you need time to adapt to the English league. Obviously, I was criticised like all goalkeepers are. They’re under a lot of pressure, especially at Liverpool.

“I never felt the pressure, but I could see and hear the criticism. I started off well in my first year, when I was 24, and goalkeepers tend to get better every year. In the first year we had the best defence in the Premier League and in the second year we won the treble.

“I was just improving, but already, from the very first day of pre-season, I heard rumours about Liverpool bringing in a new goalkeeper. That’s normal. I wasn’t nervous, or afraid of losing my place, because I felt I was doing good things.

“I made a mistake. Afterwards I went away with the national team and Liverpool bought two goalkeepers instead of one. That was obviously a big blow for me.

“From number one, to number four. That was just a nightmare. There was nothing for me to do. I didn’t have any chance to come back and they made it very clear. I thought it was very harsh, but what can you do? Things happen like this in football.”

After four seasons in LaLiga, Westerveld returned to the Premier League with Portsmouth in 2005 but struggled for regular football.

Then, he received a phone call whilst heading to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea vs Barcelona with a friend.

David Moyes told him he needed a goalkeeper and the answer was obvious.

“I was only thinking about the opportunity,” he said. “I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ I put down the phone and then it hit me. ‘Oh s***, it’s Everton.’”

Westerveld joined an exclusive club as one of just a handful of players to cross the Merseyside divide.

Given his infamous clash with Jeffers and the relationship between the two clubs, he had reservations.

He recalls: “I didn’t know what reception I would get from the fans and the people at Everton, but from day one they were all positive and happy to see me. Nobody ever gave me any grief.”

Whilst he fitted in back on Merseyside, Westerveld played only two Premier League games for the Toffees during his loan spell.

He retired in 2013, but has since kept a good relationship with Liverpool, returning to the club and representing legends teams in charity games on several occasions.

He remains the last player to represent both Everton and Liverpool and will be watching the latest instalment of the Merseyside derby with interest.

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