Neil Mellor missed out on playing in the 2005 Champions League final but did fly home with a medal, it just wasn’t the one he thought it was.
The then Liverpool striker watched on as his teammates clawed the game back level after being 3-0 down against an AC Milan side featuring the superstars of world football.
The Reds famously went on to lift the cup following a penalty shoot-out , which sent Mellor – along with the other non-playing members of the squad – scrambling to get on to the pitch to celebrate with his side and pick up a winners’ medal.
Speaking to UCLAN students, he said: “As the players left the podium to go and celebrate with the fans, Mauricio Pellegrino noticed three spare medals and asked me if I wanted one.
“Thinking it was a winners medal, I absolutely took it but it wasn’t! It was a runners-up medal that had been left by Maldini, Pirlo or whoever.
“I’ve still got it to this day.”
The 37-year-old later found out that only 18 medals were handed out for the players involved on the day, a stark contrast to the 30 that were awarded to Liverpool after last season’s Champions League win against Tottenham Hotspur.
Mellor also paid tribute to another fellow member of the squad that day in Fernando Morientes.
Cup-tied for the game, the Spaniard showed his passport to a not-so-receptive Turkish steward so that all nine of the sidelined players could get on to the pitch.
Having ended his career through injury while playing for Preston North End in 2012, Mellor now works in the media side of the game as a freelance journalist, mainly for LFC TV and Sky Sports.