Rafa Benitez says it was “impossible” to keep Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum at St James’s Park.
Sissoko and Wijnaldum – who left Newcastle United three years ago following the club’s relegation - will face each other in this season’s Champions League final in Madrid for Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool respectively.
Wijnaldum scored two goals in two minutes at Anfield as Liverpool came back from three goals down to beat Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate on Tuesday night.
And Sissoko (inset) helped Tottenham beat Ajax 3-2 on the night – and on away goals over two legs – 24 hours later.
However, they couldn’t keep United in the Premier League in the 2015-16 season, when Steve McClaren was in charge for all but the last 10 games.
Benitez – who succeeded McClaren as manager – sold them that summer as he rebuilt his squad ahead of the Championship.
Reflecting on that summer, Benitez said: “I was talking with Gini and Moussa, so I know exactly what was going on.
“It was impossible to keep some of these players when we were relegated.
“They wanted to go and play in the Premier League, and they had very good offers.
“They had to go. We couldn’t stop them at that time. I think we did well in terms of the prices, because they were good prices. We always knew they were good players.”
Meanwhile, Benitez believes his Liverpool team’s three-goal comeback in the 2005 final in Istanbul is still the greatest in the history of the Champions League.
“Forty-five minutes, with all the goals,” said Benitez. “I had someone coming from Turkey, and still they are speaking about this game.
“Who won the poll on Sky? It was very clear.
“We are talking about the final and everything happening from half-time. This time, Liverpool were quite good in the first game, and were just unlucky with the performance of (Lionel) Messi.
“They deserve to be in the final.”