Football Surprise Stories – Didier Baptiste

It’s FA Cup weekend in England and my club, Liverpool, will not be taking part in it. The Reds were knocked out fair and square by Wolves last round and now The Wanderers face Chelsea. This giant-killing is not the first time Liverpool have made the back pages for the wrong reasons, but at least this time that papers knew what they were on about.

In November 1999 the News of the World reported that Liverpool were ready to splurge £3.5m on a French U-21 left-back named Didier Baptiste. The Reds beat off competition from Arsenal which excited Liverpool fans as Arsène Wenger had a habit of picking up incredible French talent. The next day the Times, a highly reputable broadsheet, picked up the story and stated that Liverpool were over-paying and in fact he was only worth £1m. Even ClubCall, an information source which you phoned at a rate of 60p a minute to find out transfer rumours, said that Liverpool were in pole position to sign the starlet. All was good in the red half of Merseyside – the fans loved it!

Baptiste had one more trick up his sleeve – he was a master of deception, as he wasn’t real. Didier Baptiste was a fictional character in Sky One’s ‘Dream Team’ football soap drama that aired from the late 90s into 2007. News of the World posted that headline after someone tipped them off, believing that the show was real and that when asked if Baptiste was joining a top English club with a French manager. The fan got excited and he connected it to Liverpool and Gérard Houllier over Wenger. Baptiste was credited as being played by Tom Redhill, but was actually played by Sacha Grunpeter who unfortunately passed away in a car accident in LA shortly after he exited in the fourth series.

Both the Times and News of the World were left red-faced after this encounter however the Times is the only one left with a legacy to improve after this blunder, as the News of the World closed down in 2011.

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