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red legend Michael Owen “absolutely heartbroken" to hear his old boss Gérard Houllier had passed away

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Former Liverpool football stars Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler with former manager Gerard Houllier who passed away today

Former Liverpool football stars Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler with former manager Gerard Houllier who passed away today

Former Liverpool football stars Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler with former manager Gerard Houllier who passed away today

Footballer Michael Owen has said he is “absolutely heartbroken" to hear that his "old boss", Gérard Houllier, had passed away.

Owen, who spent six years at Anfield under Houllier, winning the 2001 Ballon d'Or while under the tutelage of the Frenchman, added: “A great manager and a genuinely caring man.”

Houllier, who led the Reds during a trophy-laden period in which they achieved success on the European front and cup competitions, died at the age of 73.

RMC sport and sports daily L'Equipe said he died after undergoing open heart surgery in Paris.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker also paid tribute on social media, stating: "Oh no! Gerard Houllier has passed away. One of football’s smartest, warmest and loveliest people."

Houllier’s side that had been labelled the ‘Spice Boys’ saw the club's five cup success of 2001, as they claimed the UEFA Cup, FA Cup, League Cup, Charity Shield and UEFA Super Cup.

A fan favourite at Anfield, Houllier suffered a life-threatening vascular problem during a Premier League match against Leeds that same year.

He was quickly rushed to hospital and later needed 11 hours of open-heart surgery after suffering a heart conditions known as 'dissection of the aorta'.

Nevertheless, he returned to the club after five months away, and with the help of assistant Phil Thompson, led the club to a second place finish in the 2001-02 season.

Houllier ultimately left Liverpool in 2004, having also overseen an overhaul of the club's youth system, being replaced by Rafa Benitez.

He would subsequently return to coaching in France with Lyon in 2005, before a return to England with Aston Villa in 2010.

However, Houllier's spell at Villa Park was cut short due to illness, forcing him to step down from his role after just nine months.

In 2002 Houllier was awarded the Legion d'Honneur - one of France's top civil awards.

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