Sami Hyypia, Luis Garcia and Liverpool's 25 Greatest Foreign Imports

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

Sami Hyypia, Luis Garcia and Liverpool's 25 Greatest Foreign Imports

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    When Liverpool signed Israeli forward Ronny Rosenthal for £1.1 million in June 1990, they became the first English club to pay over £1 million for a foreign player.

    In the years that followed, and with the formation of the Premier League two years later, more and more foreign players have entered the English league.

    In total, 142 foreign players have played for Liverpool—from 41 different countries around the world, calculated at LFCHistory

    Unsurprisingly, the top two nationalities of foreign players at Anfield are Spanish (18) and French (16), heavily influenced by former managers Rafa Benitez and Gerard Houllier. Both of them had their fair share of failed signings from their homeland but made some equally astute and inspired signings too.

    Here are, in no particular order, Liverpool's 25 greatest foreign (non-British) imports...

Bruce Grobbelaar (Zimbabwe)

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    Let's start with a goalkeeper, possibly the greatest ever goalkeeper Liverpool have had—although Ray Clemence certainly pushes Bruce Grobbelaar for that title.

    Brucie made over 600 appearances for the club in his 13 years on Merseyside from 1981 to 1994, winning six league titles, three FA Cups, three league cups and a European Cup.

    Grobbelaar's "spaghetti legs" in the 1984 European Cup Final penalty shoot out against Roma will forever remain one of the most memorable moments in the club's history.

Xabi Alonso (Spain)

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    Midfielder Xabi Alonso was one of Rafa Benitez's first signings in the summer of 2004, unveiled alongside fellow Spaniard Luis Garcia.

    The two of them added some flair and creativity to the Reds' side—and both eventually played a crucial role in the famous Champions League victory in Istanbul at the end of their first season at the club, writing themselves into Anfield folklore.

    Alonso's passing wowed supporters and his halfway line goals against Luton and Newcastle will always be remembered when discussing his Liverpool career.

    So too will his unfortunate departure in 2009. Alonso's relationship with Benitez fractured after the manager's failed pursuit of Gareth Barry and Alonso left for Real Madrid. He'd just enjoyed his and Liverpool's best campaign.

    A classy player who could have been an even bigger great.

Sami Hyypia (Finland)

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    "In our defensive foursome, he's absolutely awesome, it's Sami Hyypia."

    When Gerard Houllier signed Sami Hyypia in 1999, not many had heard of the Big Finn, as he was later nicknamed. But he went on to make 464 appearances for the club and finally fixed what was a long-term problem area at Anfield throughout the nineties.

    Hyypia was influential at Liverpool throughout his 10 years at the club, winning every trophy possible except the league title.

    His goals against Juventus (2005) and Arsenal (2008) mean he's one of what must be very few centre-backs to have scored in two Champions League quarter finals.

    His defensive partner for the majority of his time at Anfield was Jamie Carragher, with Carra saying via LFCHistory of Sami in 2006:

    Everyone talks about foreign players like Zola, Henry and Bergkamp but they never look at Sami. In terms of consistency he's well up there with them, there's no doubt about it. Maybe he can do something out of the blue every now and again but every week, for nine months of the season, Sami Hyypia is your man. He's definitely one of the best foreign players this country has ever seen.

    A true great.

Craig Johnston (Australia)

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    We're going back to the '80s and a player whose distinctive look made him a stand-out player in Liverpool's midfield.

    Aussie Craig Johnston was signed from Middlesbrough in 1981 and went on to make a total 271 appearances for the club in his eight years at Anfield, scoring 40 goals.

    Johnston is a player whose love of Liverpool was never in doubt, both during and after his playing career.

    Johnston went on to make his name as the creator of the adidas "Predator" football boots in the '90s.

    In 2004, Johnston said of his time at Liverpool, as per LFCHistory.net, "You have no idea how crap I was. Even when I was playing for Liverpool, I was the worst player in the best team in the world."

John Arne Riise (Norway)

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    Too often supporters will only remember a player's latter contributions when recalling their career at their club—Liverpool fans frequently recall John Arne Riise's nightmare own goal against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.

    Of course, though, Riise's overall contributions at Anfield were far more positive on the whole.

    The Norwegian signed for £4 million in 2001, finally providing a solution to the problematic left-back area.

    Riise scored some absolute blockbuster goals, his free-kick against Manchester United being the one that sticks in the memory for most, but also strikes against Chelsea (in the Community Shield final) and at home to Tottenham are worthy of a mention. Recall his top 10 goals in this video.

Dirk Kuyt (Holland)

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    Dirk Kuyt is another true "cult hero" and an adopted Scouser.

    Over 200 appearances in six years finally saw him pick up the silverware that his Liverpool career deserved with the League Cup victory in 2012, shortly before he left the club. Aaron Cutler of This Is Anfield paid tribute to Kuyt, who scored an extra-time goal after coming on in the match:

    Amidst the celebrations read a banner proclaiming: DIRK KUYT – WORKING CLASS HERO. That flag, in that instant, captured the fans' sheer adoration for a man they nicknamed the Duracell Bunny. A cult figure, finally with a medal to show for his exemplary service.

    Much maligned by some in his early days, Rafa Benitez converted the Dutchman into a right-sided attacker in his system, utilising his endless energy and work rate.

    Kuyt added vital goals from the position, including several key goals in the Champions League.

Jan Molby (Denmark)

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    Danish midfielder Jan Molby spent 11 years at Liverpool from 1984 to 1995, making almost 300 appearances and scoring 61 goals.

    His talent was never in question, as he was one of the most technically gifted players to grace the red shirt, but his fitness problems perhaps prevented him from fulfilling his potential. "Jan deprived an awful lot of people of an awful lot of enjoyment by not being able to stay in shape. Jan could have been one of the very best because his ability was unquestioned," Kenny Dalglish said, via LFCHistory.net.

    Molby's goal against Manchester United in 1985, not shown due to a TV strike at the time, was finally aired after 24 years. Until then it had become a story of folklore. Molby won the ball deep inside his own half before drifting through the United midfield and rifling his shot in at the Kop end. Watch it here.

Daniel Agger (Denmark)

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    Now Liverpool's vice-captain and second-longest serving player, Daniel Agger arrived from Brondby in 2006.

    The Dane has played a crucial role in Liverpool's history in the eight years since, including the memorable Champions League semi-final goal against Chelsea at Anfield in 2007.

    His career has been blighted by injuries and has been put in doubt recently following the £18 million arrival of Mamadou Sakho last summer, but Agger remains a valued player in the club's history with over 200 appearances.

Fernando Torres (Spain)

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    Forget his acrimonious departure and laughable form at Chelsea since. Fernando Torres was a superb player for Liverpool for three seasons, forming an incredible partnership alongside Steven Gerrard.

    His first season at the club saw him become the first Liverpool player since Robbie Fowler 12 years earlier to score 20 league goals in a season.

    His second season saw Liverpool hit their record Premier League points tally as Gerrard and Torres' partnership really shone. On another year, Rafa Benitez's side would have easily won the league.

    Twenty-two goals in 32 games in 2009/10 weren't enough to salvage Liverpool's season, and Benitez left the club under controversial circumstances. Torres' Liverpool career effectively ended too. Roy Hodgson failed to inspire the Spaniard—no surprise there—and the damage was done by the time Torres engineered his move away to Chelsea in January 2011.

    A huge case of "what might have been."

Dietmar Hamann (Germany)

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    Didi Hamann is another Anfield hero who will be most remembered for his exploits in Istanbul, where he was crucial in changing the game as a second-half substitute and scored a penalty, despite having a broken foot.

    The German's contributions were much more than just that one game, though, during his seven years at Anfield.

    Signed from Newcastle in 1999, he was another inspired Houllier signing, becoming a mainstay of the midfield in the holding role, controlling the game and breaking up play effortlessly.

    Hamann and Hyypia became the cornerstones of Liverpool's spine.

    His goal against Portsmouth in 2003/04 was voted Match of the Day's goal of the season.

Luis Garcia (Spain)

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    That the little Spaniard's name is now sung regularly by Liverpool supporters seven years after his departure, despite having made less than 100 league appearances for the club, tells you a lot about Luis Garcia.

    The likeable "cult hero" was "signed from Barca to bring us joy"—and that he certainly did.

    He may have only been at the club for three seasons, but during that time he certainly made an impression, scoring some beautiful goals in the process. Henry Jackson of This Is Anfield picked Luis Garcia's top five shortly after his retirement earlier this year; the goal v Juventus in the Champions League quarter-final in 2005 of course being the most memorable.

    Equally, his "ghost goal" against Chelsea in the semi-final will forever leave its mark in Liverpool history.

Markus Babbel (Germany)

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    German defender Markus Babbel signed for Liverpool from European giants Bayern Munich on a free transfer in 2000, becoming an integral part of the treble cup-winning side in his first season at the club.

    He started an incredible 60 games that season, all 38 Premier League games, more than any other outfield player. Vital goals in the Merseyside derby and the UEFA Cup final further endeared him to the Anfield faithful.

    But life took an unexpected turn just weeks later. He was taken off at half-time in Liverpool's matches against West Ham and Bolton in August 2001, completely out of breath. He was diagnosed with the debilitating and paralysing Guillan-Barre syndrome

    The disease left him in a wheelchair, unable to walk, but Babbel was determined to return to football and did so 15 months later.

    Unfortunately he was never able to fully recover and became frustrated, heading to Blackburn on loan before leaving for Stuttgart in 2004.

    Without the disease, Babbel would have been a true Liverpool great.

Patrik Berger (Czech Republic)

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    Flamboyant attacker Patrik Berger arrived at Anfield shortly after impressing at Euro '96, adding depth to Liverpool's abundance of attacking talents under Roy Evans.

    He made an immediate impact, scoring a second-half hat-trick at Leicester City on his second appearance for the club, followed by a double against Chelsea in a 5-1 hammering days later.

    He then hit another hat-trick against Chelsea at Anfield the following the season but was in and out of Evans' side.

    Gerard Houllier's arrival came at a crucial time for Berger and the French boss got the best out of him, adding work-rate to his game. He scored some memorable goals in the process.

    Recurring injuries interrupted his career and he left the club after seven years in 2003, spending successful spells with Portsmouth and Aston Villa

Lucas Leiva (Brazil)

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    Much maligned in his early years at Anfield, Lucas Leiva went on to become a key part of the Liverpool side and has now been at the club for seven years.

    The likable Brazilian often plays an undervalued role in the side, but injuries have hampered his development just as he was hitting his peak in 2011.

    Currently sidelined again, it remains to be seen whether he can fully recover and regain his place in Brendan Rodgers' side this season.

Javier Mascherano (Argentina)

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    Combative Javier Mascherano added another dimension to Liverpool's midfield after his arrival from West Ham in 2007.

    The Argentinian was part of the controversial deal that saw the Hammers sign Carlos Tevez, but for reasons never understood by mankind, Alan Pardew didn't rate Mascherano and allowed him to leave on loan. Four months later he was named Liverpool's man of the match in the 2007 Champions League final.

    The deal was made permanent a year later for £18 million.

    With Mascherano alongside Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard, Liverpool had "the best midfield in the world", fans boasted—a claim that was difficult to argue against.

Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)

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    The little Brazilian signed from Inter Milan just over a year ago and has already wowed the Anfield faithful with his skills and creativity from midfield.

    Aged just 21, Philippe Coutinho has plenty of time to develop further and looks like he will become a key component in the new Liverpool era under Brendan Rodgers.

Pepe Reina (Spain)

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    Pepe Reina's Liverpool career appears to be over, but the Spaniard's contributions during his time at Anfield played a key role for eight years.

    Reina arrived from Villarreal in 2005, replacing Istanbul hero Jerzy Dudek, and immediately provided a long-term solution to Liverpool's problematic goalkeeper position.

    He won the Premier League Golden Glove for most clean sheets in his first three seasons in England (2006, 2007, 2008). He was then named Liverpool's player of the season in 2009/10.

    A gifted player and one of Liverpool's best between the sticks, he's also a character off the pitch.

Titi Camara (Guinea)

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    Titi Camara is a player who firmly earns the title of "cult hero," as explained by The Anfield Wrap's Gareth Roberts:

    Most footballers need a settling-in period when they first pass through The Shankly Gates. They might take the easy option and get a few 6 out of 10 performances under their belts before trying the fancy stuff.

    Not Titi. It was overhead kicks, Cruyff turns, backheels, outrageous flicks and tricks and cannonball shots from the get go.

    Roberts quotes Jamie Carragher:

    When he first came, the first three or four months, we all thought what have we got here – Pele? Every time you gave him the ball he was flicking it over someone's head or scoring some great goals. Unfortunately it went a bit pear shaped for him towards the end.

    Carragher perfectly describes Camara's Anfield career there.

    There was a moment, though, that ensured Camara's legacy at Anfield—it occurred against West Ham at Anfield in 1999. Camara scored and sunk to his knees, head in hands, clearly emotional. Nobody knew why until Gerard Houllier explained post-match that Titi's father had died the night before, but he'd insisted on playing as he was the only striker available.

Yossi Benayoun (Israel)

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    Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun was an underrated player at Liverpool after he signed from West Ham in 2007.

    He spent just three years on Merseyside before heading south to Chelsea, but he scored crucial goals for Liverpool—most memorably the last-gasp winner at Fulham in 2009, as recalled by Henry Jackson at This is Anfield recently.

    An interesting stat about Benayoun is that he was the first player to score Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup hat-tricks.

Milan Baros (Czech Republic)

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    Milan Baros may not have been the most talented goalscorer Liverpool had, but he played a key role in the 2005 Champions League victory. With that he'll always have a place in Liverpool fans' hearts, much like Vladimir Smicer and Djibril Cisse. 

    Baros was signed for £3.2 million in 2002, unveiled alongside loan signing Nicolas Anelka, and went on to make 108 appearances, scoring 27 goals.

    Steven Speed perfectly sums up Baros' Liverpool career in his profile of the player at This is Anfield:

    Despite showing glimpses of promise at times during his three seasons at Liverpool, Milan Baros has to be ultimately seen as a disappointment. He scored twenty-seven goals in sixty-eight appearances for the club, this is not a horrendous statistic, but I believe he was capable of more. His tendency to keep his head down and not look up often cost him from scoring good chances too many times.

Martin Skrtel (Slovakia)

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    Slovakian centre-back Martin Skrtel signed for Liverpool in 2008 and immediately added competition in the Reds' defence—he eventually replaced Sami Hyypia alongside Jamie Carragher.

    Adding a physical presence, Skrtel has recently rejuvenated his Anfield career under Brendan Rodgers after being out of favour at the end of last season.

    Indeed, his two goals against Arsenal in the 5-1 win recently are probably his most memorable moments for the club in his six years so far.

Stephane Henchoz (Switzerland)

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    Stephane Henchoz's Liverpool career will always be most remembered for the role he played in winning the cup treble in 2001—and the two goal-line blocks against Arsenal in the FA Cup final.

    Signed from Blackburn for £3.5 million in 1999, Henchoz was another inspired defensive signing by Gerard Houllier. He formed a superb partnership alongside Sami Hyypia, with Didi Hamann anchoring the midfield ahead of them.

    That base added solidity to the Reds' previously weak side and put them back on the European map.

    He eventually left in 2005 after Rafa Benitez arrived and converted Jamie Carragher to centre-back and limiting Henchoz's opportunities. Not a bad replacement, Carragher.

Jari Litmanen (Finland)

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    After spending years trying to sign the stylish Finn, Gerard Houllier criminally underused Jari Litmanen.

    It was often said that the French boss struggled with big-name players, and this seemed the case with Ltimanen, whose arrival from Barcelona was quite a coup.

    Sadly he made just 43 appearances for the club, scoring 9 goals, including this beauty against Tottenham and the crucial penalty in Houllier's famous return against AS Roma in 2002.

    A quality player who could have been an Anfield great.

Igor Biscan (Croatia)

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    When Liverpool beat Juventus in the 2005 Champions League quarter-final, there was an unexpected hero at the heart of their midfield.

    Igor Biscan saved his best two performances for the club for both legs against the Italian Old Lady. Indeed, he was instrumental throughout The Reds' run to Istanbul, as noted by Bleacher Report's Matt Binks:

    His surging runs and dogged battling in the centre of midfield were the foundation for Liverpool to record famous victories. Away to Deportivo, Bayern Leverkusen and Juventus, Biscan was massive. He was also excellent in the semi final against Chelsea.

    The big Croat was a cult hero at Anfield, as explained by This Is Anfield's Ste Speed.

Luis Suarez (Uruguay)

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    And finally, saving the best until last.

    Luis Suarez was signed from Ajax in January 2011 for £22 million. He currently has 75 goals in his 123 appearances so far and recently became the first player to score 10 goals in a calendar month in the history of the Premier League.

    He's one of the hottest properties in Europe and hopefully he'll be writing his name into Anfield folklore at the highest level in the Champions League next season.

     

    All stats and transfer fees via LFCHistory.net.