How do you even begin to explore the idea of a Liverpool dream team? Where do you even begin? Why would you stress yourself out by taking on that challenge? I don’t really know, but I’ve decided to…
I’ve also decided to narrow down my field of choice. I’d love to tell you all about the difference between Stephane Henchoz’s style of play when compared with Alan Hansen’s, but I didn’t watch enough of Hansen to talk about him with any degree of authority. It would be great to speak of the goalscoring prowess of Billy Liddell, but the only information I’ve got about him is anecdotal.
I will cheat a little bit, though. John Barnes played for the Reds in the Premier League era but he was a much different proposition from the Barnes that set the league alight in the 1987-1988 season. What I’m allowing myself to do, though, is presume that any player is at his peak for my team, rather than how any player was towards the end of his spell at the club.
You are free to call me a cheat, but if I mention Steven Gerrard then we all think about the marauding box-to-box midfielder who dragged Liverpool through many a game when the majority of the rest of the squad wasn’t up to his level. We don’t think about the lad who, if we’re honest, had lost his legs by the time the 2014-2015 season came around. Plus, it’s my game so I’m making up the rules.
One of the trickiest decisions you need to make when considering a dream team is the formation you want to play. It’s tempting, especially with the attacking resources Liverpool have had at their disposal over the years, to go all out attack and be damned with the consequences. Realistically, though, you need to think about the balance of the team.
My initial instinct, then is to opt for a 4-4-2 diamond formation, but that might change when I have finally nailed down my starting XI. It could be that the attackers, for example, offer a fluidity that would allow me to switch to 4-3-3 reasonably easily, or that the midfielders can transition from a defensive formation to an attacking one quite quickly. Let’s have a look at the team and if you disagree with my choices then do let me know through Twitter or the comments section!
Pepe Reina (2005 – 2014)
As far as goalkeepers are concerned there can be only one, surely? Bruce Grobbelaar was what you would happily define as a ‘character’ and it’s fair to say that he won absolutely everything there was to win at the club, but would his personality really work as well in the ‘clinical’ world of the Premier League as it did during the 1980s? David James had the nickname ‘Calamity’ and that about summed up his time at the club, whilst Sander Westerveld was good but never quite good enough.
Jerzy Dudek might have lifted the Champions League trophy thanks to his incredible heroics in Istanbul, but he didn’t have the all-round game that Reina offered. The Spaniard was incredible during his best spell at Liverpool, arguably being the best goalkeeper in the league at times under Rafa Benitez. Perhaps this was, to some extent, down to Rafa’s defensive mindset and there’s no question that Xavi Valero brought a lot to the table. But Reina is, for me, the top choice of Premier League goalkeepers for LFC.
Steve Nicol (1981 – 1995)
I didn’t leave it long to make my first controversial decision, did I? Steve Nicol was actually signed by Bob Paisley, though he wasn’t used with any degree of regularity until first Joe Fagan and then Kenny Dalglish took over the managerial reigns at Anfield. He played in the Premier League, though, so he gets into my team through the backdoor I introduced earlier.
Nicol was perhaps one of the most under-rated players ever to play for Liverpool. Though a utility player at heart, he made the right-back spot his own and I struggle to think of a better candidate for the position. Glen Johnson was top-notch on his day and could offer plenty in attack but he was sometimes found wanting in defence. Nathaniel Clyne might be Mr. Reliable at the back but doesn’t do enough in attack. Alvaro Arberloa is perhaps the one who comes the closest to challenging Nicol, but he just isn’t as good.
Sami Hyypia (1999 – 2009)
How much would you give to have the big Finn in our defensively line-up right now? A towering presence who just seemed to deal with everything, Hyypia was genuinely brilliant for ten years in Red. He also won pretty much everything there was to win except for the league, which is no mean trophy haul.
Sami was an important figure at Anfield for a decade and if Steven Gerrard hadn’t been the player he was then Hyypia would have been a worthy captain for all of that time rather just some of it. Compare and contrast with a player like, for example, Martin Skrtel and it’s easy to see just how good Hyypia was. Trusted by several managers and defensive partners, he was a rock.
Jamie Carragher (1996 – 2013)
Carra made my all-time LFC XI, so it makes sense that he’d be a shoe-in for the centre-back spot alongside Hyypia. Rafa first realised his potential as a centre-back, shifting him in from the right-back slot to work with the Finn, Rafa created a formidable defence that lost just two games and conceded a mere 27 goals. Incredible.
Married to Carragher’s natural ability was his desire to fight for every last ball. Alongside Steven Gerrard he was the Scouse heartbeat of the team at a time when cultural imports were all the rage. He was the supporter’s true representative on the pitch and he was amazing.
Fábio Aurelio (2006 – 2012)
Is the left-back spot the place Liverpool have had the most difficulty over in the Premier League years? It certainly feels like it. José Enrique’s headless chicken impression grew so tiresome that a number of right-backs were played on the opposite side in order to try to find a solution during the Brendan Rodgers era. Then he replaced him with Alberto Moreno. Looking at it that way it’s a miracle he survived as long as he did as manager, really…
Fábio Aurélio was made of glass. He could barely look at a football without twingeing a muscle and being out for a few months. Much like with Daniel Sturridge, however, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a top-class footballer. He was a Rolls Royce of a defender when he was on the pitch and his free-kicks were to die for. Not the finest player ever to pull on a Liverpool shirt but possibly one of the best left-backs on his day.
Javier Mascherano (2007 – 2010)
Some might see this as a controversial pick, but I can’t really see how. If you’re playing 4-4-2 diamond then the player at the base needs to be able to work extremely hard to protect the defence. The only three players who could be seriously considered for that role are Dieter Hamann and Lucas Leiva, but this man would run them both into the ground.
Ferocious in the tackle, Mascherano would be a dream player for Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool. Even now I’m fairly certain he could still do a job. His departure from the club was slightly acrimonious, but you’ve got to look at who is telling each side of the story. My faith is with the Argentinian.
Steven Gerrard (1998 – 2015)
Without question one of the greatest players ever to play for the club, there’s no way Gerrard doesn’t make the all-time Premier League XI. The only question really is where about to play him. I’ve opted to follow Rafa’s reign and have him cutting in from the right, linking up with the forwards and destroying opponents as he did regularly in 2008-2009.Gerrard was a true all-rounder and I believe one of Rodgers’ biggest mistakes was allowing him to leave without at least attempting to adapt him into a centre-back. Would he have had the tactical discipline and intelligence? Maybe not, but we’ve had Martin Skrtel there for years so does it really matter?
John Barnes (1987 – 1997)
You might have spotted this little ‘cheat’ coming from my introduction, but my oh my how sumptuous would a paring of John Barnes one one wing and Steven Gerrard on the other be? Digger was, frankly, unplayable on his day and opposition defenders would literally bounce off him when he picked up the ball and went on a mazy run.
You got the feeling that opposition managers thought it was somehow unfair that Liverpool had Barnes. That he was able to adapt his game and become something of a defensively minded central midfielder later in his career is testament to his ability. One of the best, he deserves all of the accolades you can think of.
Raheem Sterling (2012 – 2015)
A tricky one, this one, and based largely around the notion of needing to chose a player to sit behind the attackers in the ‘hole’. For my money Philippe Coutinho plays better when he’s further back and can see the whole pitch in front of him. We need a player who can swap with the two wingers, link up with the attackers and drop back to help out the defence if needs be.Sterling is another one whose departure from the club left a sour taste in the mouth but whose ability should be looked on for what it was – exceptional. He seemed to learn every time he was on the pitch and it was one of the great shames of the Rodgers era that he so often misused the youngster. Forget his time at City so far and remember just how good he was when he was at his best for us.
Fernando Torres (2007 – 2011)
Completing the hat-trick of ‘players who left the club under a could’ is Torres, the man who made the Kop bounce. So much of Liverpool’s dominance in the ill-fated 2008 – 2009 season came down to just how lethal Torres was in front of goal. The Spaniard developed a relationship with Gerrard that was almost like mind-reading at times.
Would he have clicked with the man who, in the end, was brought in to replace him? It remains to be seen, of course, but it’s a fair guess that the two would have dove-tailed nicely. Torres loved to play on the shoulder of the defender and his pace and finishing was absolutely devastating. He may have ended up at Stamford Bridge, but his armband said he was a Red..
Luis Suarez (2011 – 2014)
Probably the most gifted finisher I’ve ever seen play for Liverpool. Suarez has his…issues, but as a footballer he is one of the best in the world. How I would have loved to have seen Suarez playing with Torres with Gerrard just behind. What a sight that would have been to behold. Michael Owen and Ian Rush both deserve honourable mentions, but Suarez pips them to the starting post.
The Uruguayan didn’t single-handedly fire Liverpool to second in 2013 – 2014, despite what some would have you believe, but he was a huge part of the battle for top spot. One of the most inventive, surprising, exciting players ever to grace the Anfield turf. He won’t got down as a club legend in the same way as the likes of Dalglish or Gerrard, but he was glorious to watch.