Jamie Carragher is set to retire from football and his life at Liverpool at the end of the 2012-13 season. The Liverpudlian will be missed at Anfield, but not just because of his playing ability. He will be missed because he is one of the Reds' few and true characters in the current set-up.
There is no two ways about it, Jamie Carragher is a club legend at Liverpool and rightly so. Having played 723 times at the time of writing Carragher has made the second most appearances for the club of all time. Ian Callaghan holds the current record for most games played for Liverpool having contributed an astonishing 857 games over an 18-year period.
Unlike Callaghan though, Carragher will end his career at the highest level as one of the few players of the modern age to have only played for one club.
Carragher joined Liverpool in 1994 as a trainee and went on to make his debut three years later on January 8, 1997, against Middlesbrough in the League Cup. The game ended in defeat for the 75th-minute introduction for Rob Jones at right-back and few would have predicted the beginnings of an amazing career.
From there Carragher would go on to represent the Reds over 700 times. He won the FA Cup twice and the League Cup three times but his crowning glory was winning the Champions League in Istanbul in 2005. Importantly he also won Liverpool's Player-of-the-Year award in 2005 and again in 2007.
Technically, Carragher was an average player for most of his career. He wasn't particularly great at anything from a skill-set point of view. However, the most important aspect of Carragher as a player was character.
He simply never knew when to lie down and give up and never left the pitch as a loser-even in defeat.
The golden period of Carragher's career was between 2004 and 2009 where he played virtually every match Rafael Benitez could throw at him. He benefited hugely from the defensive protection Xabi Alonso would give in front of the back four and his pace was shielded by the Reds' full-backs being given defensive priorities.
At international level he was often over-looked but still managed to make play a respectable 38 times for his country.
With his career on the wane Carragher is right to retire from football. The system employed by Brendan Rodgers would not have suited the Jamie Carragher of 2005 never mind the 35-year-old in 2013.
For much of the past four-to-five seasons the game has passed him by. His levels of pace were never great to begin with, which is why he never made the transition to England regular, and over the last five years it has lessened to a degree where he was being exposed regularly.
The point is that Jamie Carragher was never a top-class player. He was, however, nothing less than a top-class professional.
This blunt chart comparing Jamie Carragher at the end of the 2009 season to Vincent Kompany from the 2011-12 season. It shows the differences between the two players with Kompany currently regarded as one of the best defenders in the game.
Jamie Carragher (2009)
Vincent Kompany (2012)
Goals Conceded per Game
Passing in Def Zone
Passing in Atk Zone
11 from 14
13 from 17
Shots on Target
1 from 6
6 from 14
Minutes per shot
Most of the statistics are of similar levels. However, at the highest level of football as within any sport, millimetres can be as far as miles when comparing athletes.
The stark difference between Kompany and Carragher is best shown through the interception rate. Kompany's 78 interceptions to Carragher's 45 shows the Belgian defender to be a far more mobile player.
Not only is Kompany more mobile, he is also quicker and far stronger than Carragher ever was as a player.
Despite the fact that Carragher was often overshadowed by his defensive peers or his attacking opponents. Think of the likes of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney or even Robin van Persie. He could always draws on huge reserves of inner strength and knowledge which are immeasurable in professional sport.
He organised, cajoled, inspired and pulled players into better defensive positions around the pitch constantly. He never stopped giving encouragement to younger players afraid of the big occasion or to more experienced team mates who were letting their own game down. He would speak with authority and everyone listened because he has an acute football brain and the ability to plug gaps before they even appeared.
Of the elements that cannot be determined through science he was a giant amongst men.
When Liverpool were dead and buried in Istanbul, losing 3-0 at halftime to AC Milan, Carragher was one of the few players who refused to accept defeat. This attitude and character was indicative of his entire career and can often be seen in goal-saving tackles at the very last moment when he had no right to make such a challenge.
While the prototype of a Carragher-style player will not be welcome at Liverpool in the foreseeable future under Brendan Rodgers, the ex-Swansea manager would be wise to seek a player of Carragher's character and never-say-die attitude.
Without his presence in the training ground, he has only played 12 league games this term, there will be a huge gap that needs to be filled immediately.
Liverpool are almost characterless as it is. Only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher stand out as true leaders in Rodgers' squad. Other players are mere wing-men who can rise to the occasion if inspired by one of the two Liverpool home-boys.
In short, Jamie Carragher the player won't be missed by Brendan Rodgers and the rest of the Liverpool team.
However, Jamie Carragher the leader, character, mentor and inspirational figure will be.
Statistics provided by www.soccerbase.com, www.whoscored.com, www.premierleague.com, www.fourfourtwo.com
You can follow me on Twitter @WillieGannon
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