Houllier makes Auxerre scouting trip

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GERARD HOULLIER was absent from Liverpool's Premiership win over Middlesbrough on Saturday as he was in France watching Auxerre's crop of outstanding young players, planetfootball.com can reveal.

Houllier has recently returned to partake in light training duties with Liverpool, after his heart-attack last year.

However, his absence from Saturday's 2-1 win at The Riverside was due to his scouting mission in Northern France.

Auxerre have confirmed to planetfootball that Houllier was present at Stade de l'Abbe Deschamps.

"Mr Houllier was present here on Saturday, but we cannot reveal the reasons behind his presence," an Auxerre spokesperson told planetfootball.com.

"Liverpool were the only English club represented at the game, as far as we were concerned."

Houllier would not have wasted his time either, as all his prospective targets played in Auxerre 3-2 win over Metz.

Central defenders Phillipe Mexes and Jean-Alain Boumsong are long-standing targets and both scored, as Auxerre came from two goals behind to win.

Olivier Kapo and the immensely talented Djibril Cisse also played, and Houllier would have been delighted to have seen all four at once.

Of course Liverpool are not alone in having a significant interest in the Auxerre starlets, especially Mexes and Cisse.

However, Houllier has always been thought of as a mentor by many French players and like compatriot Arsene Wenger at Arsenal is always confident of luring his fellow countrymen to England.

Houllier has already pounced within the last year to secure the signatures of Le Havre's young diamonds Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle who will move to Anfield next year.

Another major plus in Houllier's favour when dealing with Auxerre is his very close friendship with their coach Guy Roux, who despite being loathe to lose any of his squad would seemingly be more willing to negotiate with his old confidant.

The most likely signing out of all of the players Houllier watched on Saturday is Boumsong, who Liverpool almost signed in 2000 before he left Le Havre for Auxerre.

Boumsong, still only 22, has not forgotten Liverpool's interest and the French Under-21 international has suggested that he will leave Auxerre this summer.

"Saturday evening, Gerard Houllier was in the platforms," Boumsong said.

"It was undoubtedly for Cisse and of few others, but for me, as in all cases, I will wait until the end of the season to see which offers arise.

"If a beautiful opportunity arises, I will then hope a solution with Auxerre could come.

"The one thing that is sure, even if I remain or I leave, it will be necessary that my situation is resolved before European Championships in Switzerland."

Mexes and Cisse are also possible departures in the summer, and the latter has already stated that a move to Liverpool does appeal to him.