Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen and Sir Alex Ferguson have led the tributes for French football manager Gerard Houllier, who has passed away at the age of 73.
The former Liverpool boss, who guided the Reds to the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001, had a long history of medical problems and died three weeks after having aortic aneurysm surgery in Paris.
Ex-Reds centre back Carragher, who played under Houllier for six years, led the waves of messages, saying: “Absolutely devastated by the news about Gerard Houllier, I was in touch with him only last month to arrange him coming to Liverpool. Loved that man to bits, he changed me as a person & as a player & got back winning trophies. RIP Boss.”
Owen, who enjoyed the best years of his career under the Frenchman, said: “Absolutely heartbroken to hear that my old boss, Gérard Houllier, has sadly passed away. A great manager and a genuinely caring man. #RIPBoss”
Liverpool FC tweeted from their account: “We are mourning the passing of our treble-winning manager, Gerard Houllier.
“The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool Football Club are with Gerard’s family and many friends. Rest in peace, Gerard Houllier 1947-2020.”
Ferguson, meanwhile, hailed Houllier as a “true gentleman’ with ‘fantastic football knowledge.”
The legendary Manchester United manager was Houllier’s rival during the latter’s time in charge at Anfield, but they bridged their respective clubs’ rivalries by becoming friends.
Ferguson, 78, himself underwent emergency surgery in May 2018 after suffering a brain haemorrhage, but has since recovered. He said: “The news has come as a total shock this morning. Gerard Houllier was still a young man at the age of 73. Gerard became a really good friend during his time at Liverpool. We remained great friends after he left.
“He had fantastic football knowledge which he gained during his extensive and varied career. When we saw each other at UEFA meetings or other events, we would often enjoy a chat, he was always great company and I will miss him dearly. He was a true gentleman.”
Houllier arrived at Liverpool in the summer of 1998, initially as joint-manager with Roy Evans before taking sole charge just four months later.
Evans said on Monday morning: “Incredibly sad news hearing of the passing of Gerrard Houllier. A gentleman I have the greatest respect for and what he achieved at Liverpool football club. Condolences to his family. RIP”
Houllier oversaw a major rebuilding of the squad, signing the likes of Sami Hyypia, Dietmar Hamann and Vladimir Smicer and bringing through Owen, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher from the youth system into the first team.
Aston Villa, the club which Houllier managed from September 2010 to June 2011 before having to step down due to ill health, said: “All at Aston Villa are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Gérard Houllier, our manager during the 2010/11 season.
“Our thoughts are with Gérard’s loved ones at this incredibly difficult time.”
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker was also among the first to tweet his sympathies, posting: “Oh no! Gerard Houllier has passed away. One of football’s smartest, warmest and loveliest people. #RIPGerard”.
Phil Thompson, who was Houllier’s assistant at Liverpool from 1998-2004, said: “Absolutely devastated and heartbroken at the sad news of the passing of Gerard. My mate, my colleague, my boss.
“One of the greatest moments of my life was when we come together in 1998. Just to be in his company was an absolute treat. So loyal, so passionate and extremely fierce.”