Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits he may look back on not signing for Real Madrid when he had the chance as a mistake but insists he would have regretted leaving Anfield far more.
At the peak of his powers the midfielder was wanted by a host of Europe’s top sides, including Los Blancos, but he rejected all advances to remain with the only club he has ever known.
The 34-year-old has been accused of a lack of ambition on several occasions but he has always stressed he is happy with the choices he made.
“I think it is very flattering to be linked to a huge club like Real Madrid,” he said.
“I think I had a couple of options throughout my career to go to Real Madrid but I resisted temptation because of the big connection I had to my hometown club.
“It may be something I regret further down the line by not challenging myself and having a change of scenery in a different country but I would have had a bigger regret leaving the club I love.
“I am a big fan of Madrid, they are a special club, but for me Liverpool are my number one club.”
Gerrard leads his side out against the defending European champions at Anfield on Wednesday night looking to rekindle memories of the 4-0 demolition – their heaviest away defeat in Europe – they inflicted on the Spanish club in March 2009.
Then they had Fernando Torres rampaging across the forward line and terrorising the Real defence but this time around the Reds captain admits victory would be classed as unexpected considering their inconsistent form this season.
“This is almost like a bonus game for us – a game we need to enjoy – but I’ve been around for a long time and I know you only enjoy nights like this when you put in a good performance as a team and we are hoping we surprise and shock a few people,” he said.
“Looking back at that (2009) game the reason we came out on top is because we were very aggressive both with and without the ball; we pressed from the front and we also had a world-class talent in Fernando Torres who set the tempo on the night and we all came in behind him.
“That was a wonderful evening for myself and the team: it was a fabulous performance and we are looking for the performance level to be similar if we want a positive result.”
If Liverpool are to have any chance of success they must keep quiet the free-scoring Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still looking for his first goal at Anfield after five previous attempts.
The Portugal international broke a 71-year-old La Liga record at the weekend by taking his tally to 15 goals in eight league matches, he has now scored a staggering 271 goals in 258 club appearances and is just two goals away from equalling club icon Raul’s Champions League record of 71.
“Ronaldo is in a fantastic moment and is doing really well, it is impossible to do better,” said the Italian, who said he was honoured to have matched “fantastic” former Liverpool manager Bob Paisley’s record of winning three European Cups.
“He is really focused and wants to try to do the best so this moment will continue.”
Team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa, a former Liverpool defender, said playing alongside Ronaldo for the last six years he has noticed a significant upturn in the last couple of seasons.
“We can only use superlatives all the time. Even if you compared to what he was like two years ago you wouldn’t believe the numbers he is now achieving,” he said.
“Confidence-wise he is at the most confident he has been in his career.”