New signing Adam Lallana admits Liverpool’s scintillating form last season had him wistfully dreaming of playing for the Reds.
The 26-year-old’s comments may not go down well with Southampton fans, but the England midfielder said he could not fail to be impressed by a team which ran Manchester City close in the title race.
Lallana, a boyhood Everton fan, completed his £25million move to Anfield to end manager Brendan Rodgers’ pursuit of a player he identified as a primary target for this summer.
“Watching the run-in towards the end of last season it was unbelievable,” said the midfielder after signing what is believed to be a five-year contract.
“It got the hairs on the back of my neck standing up just watching the style of football.
“Deep down I was thinking to myself ‘One day hopefully I’ll be able to play in that team’.”
Southampton were reluctant to allow their captain to leave and rejected a number of bids from Liverpool before the World Cup.
However, the appointment of Ronald Koeman to succeed departed manager Mauricio Pochettino and England’s early return from Brazil saw the deal pick up pace again, and Saints have pledged to use the income to strengthen their squad.
“The fee received from Liverpool, although undisclosed, will allow the club to further develop the first-team squad for the 2014/2015 season,” said a statement from the south-coast club.
Lallana, who follows Southampton and England team-mate Rickie Lambert to Anfield this summer, was grateful to his former side but admits he could not turn down a chance to play Champions League football and challenge for the title.
“I’d like to thank everyone at Southampton for everything they have done for me,” he told LFCTV GO.
“There has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and a little bit longer than I anticipated but it is something I’m not quite used to.
“During the World Cup I was fully focused on playing for England but I was eager for it to get sorted when I knew I was coming home, just so I could switch off for a couple of weeks before we start pre-season.
“I am grateful Southampton accepted the offer in the end and granted my wish to play at such a fantastic football club with Champions League football and competing for Premier League titles.
“They are different targets to those of a club like Southampton and I am just going to be pushing to be the best I can.
“I’m so excited for the next chapter of my career, coming to a special club like Liverpool.
“It is a huge step. Liverpool has so much history and after the season they had last season I can’t wait to get started and build on that.
“Five or six years ago I was playing League One but it is reality we’ve climbed up the leagues and done so well, and I’d like to think I’m here on merit and have earned it and I’d like to continue improving playing with world-class players.”
A quirk of the fixture list means Lallana and Lambert are likely to make their competitive debuts at home to former club Southampton on the opening day of the season.
“It would have been worse if it had been at St Mary’s so I’m glad it is at Anfield,” said Lallana.
“It is fate to be lining up against your former team-mates; Ricky said he would have bet his mortgage on it.”
Rodgers believes Lallana is a “special commodity” and is delighted to have signed him.
“What is apparent about Adam is that his character is on a par with his talent,” said the Reds boss.
“Adam is motivated by being the best he can be and being part of something special.
“We believe he fits right in with what we are trying to do at Liverpool.
“We have seen, over the past two seasons in the Barclays Premier League, he has a tactical awareness to adapt to what is required of him and to put the team above his personal ambitions.
“He has leadership skills and personal qualities that make him a special commodity and I am delighted we have acted decisively to make sure he is wearing a Liverpool shirt next season.”