Cherno Samba - remember him?
As a 15-year old, Cherno Samba was a teenage wonderkid who had the world at his feet. The Millwall starlet was in demand from the biggest clubs in England, with Manchester United, Leeds and Liverpool all vying for his signature.
With the transfer saga intensifying, Kop hero Michael Owen rang Samba to try and persuade the young forward to move to Anfield. But as such, the transfer fell through as Liverpool refused to meet the stiff demands of Millwall.
Samba went on to fulfil his potential, albeit in the virtual world, as he rose to glory in the hit game Championship Manager. Yet, still to this day Samba remembers the moment he received the call from Liverpool legend Owen.
"After I'd been to Melwood, I was on the bus with my mates and my phone rang," Samba told The Guardian.
"I tried to shush my mates, saying: 'It's Michael Owen,' and they were like: 'Shut up.' So I put him on loud speaker. The whole bus went quiet. He said it would be great if I came to Liverpool. I couldn't breathe when I came off the phone and I remember thinking: 'This is happening.'"
Samba was then photographed wearing a Liverpool jacket as media speculation on his potential transfer reached fever-pitch.
Samba claims that Liverpool were prepared to pay £2m to get him - £1m of it up front and the rest in instalments, however, Millwall wanted the full amount there and then which resulted in the dream move crumbling, with Samba's destiny cruelly decided by finance and not performance.
Samba explained: "It crushed my world. I thought: 'If I can't have my dream move, I don't want anything to do with football."
Aged 19 and released from Millwall, Samba endured some tough times and admits that he struggled with the reality of his failed move. Firstly he joined Cadiz in Spain before being loaned out to Malaga B but his career never really took off how Championship Manager had envisioned.
"I felt I’d failed in England and I had to run away to Spain. The Liverpool deal was constantly on my mind. It was a dark time in my life and being alone didn’t help. Everything just escalated,"
Samba's career hit a new low when he had to be rushed to hospital, the forward recalling: "I was one of those people who said: 'Depression will never happen to me.' But you don't know it until it grabs you. After I regained consciousness, it really hit home that I was lucky to be alive. It was when I said: 'This is not me. I have got to sort myself out',"
😳 “My friend said: ‘do you know this game? You’re the best in the world!’”— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) October 25, 2018
🎮 “I put pressure on myself on the pitch to live up to the stats in game.”
Cherno Samba on when he realised he’s a @FootballManager legend.
[🎥 @SamgerFC on @TSHandJ] pic.twitter.com/IrrJTzy2Q5
Samba eventually returned to England, signing for Plymouth Argyle before an unsuccessful loan spell at Wrexham. Spells in Haka in Finland, Panetolikos in Greece and FFK Tonsberg in Norway followed but the once prodigious talent never reached the heights he could have been destined for and he will always be remembered as the Champions Manager legend.
Samba tells his full story in his new book Cherno Samba: Still In The Game.