Cherno Samba lifts lid on failed Liverpool move

Former Gambia international Cherno Samba has finally revealed the reason behind his failed move to Liverpool nearly two decades ago that led him to fall into depression and try to take his own life.

The former Scorpions striker came to prominence by scoring 132 goals in 32 games for his boyhood club Millwall and was signed to the team’s academy at the age of 13.

Samba was the hottest property in England back then and was tipped to become a star for the Three Lions ahead of former Everton and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney but if only he had sealed his “dream move”.

Despite being born in the Gambia, Che turned out for every English age group team from the U16s to the U20s putting Rooney on the bench and thus adding to his reputation as a ‘wonder-kid’.

Millwall turned down an offer from Liverpool for his services, reported to be of about £2million, a massive figure for a youngster at the time with Samba having rejecting moves to Manchester United and Arsenal at the time to move to Merseyside.

Lifting the lid for the first time on the botched move, Samba, now 33, revealed in his yet-to-be released book titled “Still In The Game”, how the move never materialised.

“Michael Owen accompanied me around their training ground at Melwood and introduce me to the players,” Samba said in an interview with Sky Sports.

“Michael bigged the club up and said things like, ‘This is the best club to come to, we’ll look after you here. Come to Liverpool, Cherno’, Michael was lovely and introduced me to Robbie Fowler, who was also very nice to me.”

“I was on the school bus one day and my mobile phone rang – it was only Michael Owen! My mates didn’t believe me that I was actually talking to ‘The Michael Owen’ and they ribbed me big time.”

“Two weeks later [after the call from Owen], my dad called me and I came downstairs in the kitchen and he said, ‘Look you can see how your mum has not been well for the past two weeks’ and then he told me the deal has not gone through,” he recalled how the move broke down due to Liverpool failing to agree terms with Millwall.

“I remembered I just dropped on the floor in the kitchen and just started crying my eyes out. I don’t think I recovered after that. Not the same player, not the same person and I became this sort of angry person.”

The failed transfer led to the former 5ft 10in striker unable to deliver on his potential and was shipped off to Spanish minnows Cádiz CF in 2004 where he says this triggered some difficult emotions for him, including suicidal thoughts.

“[The failed transfer] had an impact throughout my career. It was non-stop. I was thinking about it. I remember when I went to Spain at first, I couldn’t sleep. I was sweating at night. I was having nightmares. I was dreaming. I was just a lost cause really. When I went to Spain I felt I’d failed. I couldn’t even do it in my own country so I had to be shipped out to Spain, so that’s when all the bad things came into my head again.”

The former forward, who featured four times for the Scorpions, added: “That’s what left to the tragedy and I nearly took my own life. I told myself that the only thing I should now be interested in was to make money and to concentrate on looking after my family and myself.”

“I knew it was the wrong way to look at things but I was young and I had a chip on my shoulder – I was still thinking I should have been playing in the Premier League for Liverpool! Luckily, by the Grace of God I am still here. Having said that, that’s the past, this is Cherno and I am ready to go.”

Chernor Samba retired at the age of 29 having played for Málaga CF, Plymouth Argyle, Wrexham, FC Haka, Panetolikos FC and FK Tønsberg respectively.

His book - Still In The Game - is set for release on November 5.