Liverpool FC: The 10 Possible Steven Gerrards of the Future
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Steven Gerrard. Captain Fantastic. He's been a Liverpool man since birth, and in his 12-year professional career with the Reds, he's done it all and won it all save one precious trophy.
Liverpool fans voted him second on the list of all-time "Players Who Shook the Kop," but the man who came in first, "King" Kenny Dalglish, would probably say the places should be switched.
More than being an outstanding footballer who's scored some of the most important goals in Liverpool's history, he is the last player to come out of the Liverpool Academy and really shine. He's one of very few world footballers who, when the ball is at his feet, he can make anything happen.
He is the definition of "cool", can pass the ball 40 yards (so they sing) with pin-point accuracy while at the same time bossing around and dominating the midfield. He is also the one everyone looks to in the dressing room.
Now that "Stevie G" is pushing 31 years of age, and injuries are starting to take bigger chunks out of his playing time, the Reds need someone to step into his very large shoes in the coming years.
He likely only has three or four more years as a footballer, and they will be at Liverpool. If Roy Hodgson was still in charge, I'd be a little scared of Gerrard possibly leaving in the summer (Jose Mourinho has been sending him love letters for years), but with Kenny in charge, there's no chance.
It takes a lot to be Steven Gerrard, but, in no way, is it impossible.
Liverpool has most of the possible successors already in their ranks. Gerrard isn't the first of his kind to play for Liverpool, and here's hoping he won't be the last!
Some of these players will hope to be the next Steven Gerrard for years to come, while some will need to take his place in games he will surely miss—due to injury or just taking a rest—in the coming few years.
No particular order to the list.
10. Charlie Adam
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Charlie Adam is Blackpool's Steven Gerrard, which explains why Ian Holloway clung to him so tightly in January. Adam is also the only man on this list not already with the Reds.
He's the definition of what a Premier League club captain should be. He bosses the midfield with ease, he scores all-important goals that seem near-impossible for anyone else and without him, his team looks lost.
He's a prime example of just how important a certain man can be to a team, and in terms of persona, he's pretty darn close to Stevie.
Blackpool may or may not go back down this season, but Adam is almost assuredly on the way out. He was rumored to be very upset about not being sold to Liverpool in January, but he'll likely get his wish this summer.
Like Gerrard, he's a imposing force in both the eyes of his teammates and opponents, and he is supremely cool from any set pieces.
At 25, he'd spend a few years learning alongside Gerrard and would no doubt be a strong voice in the dressing long before becoming the focal point on the pitch for the Reds.
9. Alberto Aquilani
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Alberto Aquilani is technically still a Liverpool player; he's just been scoring and assisting for another team all season. He also may want to stay with Juventus when the season is up, but that'll be down to King Kenny to decide, and Kenny is clever enough to see how good this guy can be with the right manager.
He was a solid performer with plenty of promise for Liverpool last season, but Rafa Benitez just didn't play him enough and Roy Hodgson shipped him out.
He's got great passing ability and gets in the box to support his forwards, much like Raul Meireles. And that's not a type of player you lament having two of, at the least.
He seems like a quiet guy off the pitch, but at only 26, there's plenty of time to change that. Besides, his play on the field is where he can really make his mark.
He can score from all over the pitch and always gets into the right area to either notch a game-winner or to set up his forwards with perfect balls to place into the back of the net.
Another midfielder like him can really take some pressure off Gerrard's shoulders in his final years, and it can turn him into the team's leader on and off the pitch.
8. Martin Kelly
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Being a defender, Martin Kelly seems more likely to succeed Jamie Carragher's throne than Steven Gerrard's, but his quick pace, long runs and pin-point accuracy make him hugely important all over the pitch for the Reds.
He's not yet 21 years old, but he already has his name stamped all over the right back spot for Liverpool next season and a towering center back for the future.
Not only is he the future for Liverpool, but for England as well.
He comes up from the back frequently, but unlike Glen Johnson, he does it while still keeping the left wing shut down for the opponent (I think Johnson would make a better winger than fullback, personally).
Kelly has come close to scoring himself, but his penetrating runs and crosses into the opponent's box are what make him so invaluable to the Reds.
He's a hugely important piece for Liverpool's future, and being so young, his career could go in a lot of different directions, all of them up.
7. Raheem Sterling
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Liverpool snatched up English youngster Raheem Sterling from Queens Park Rangers a little over a year ago, and he could very well make his first team debut this season.
He is just 16, but he's already making waves for his performances with Liverpool's youth team, highlighted by a five-goal display in the Reds 9-0 defeat of Southend United.
He most often plays on the wing but could also play just behind the strikers, and he can score or assist from anywhere.
Liverpool's Academy used to churn out star players like nobody's business (Gerrard, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman to name a few), and it's time a few more came through the ranks.
6. Jay Spearing
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In one word, Jay Spearing is feisty. Seriously. The kid runs around like he's got a chip on his shoulder, and that's a good thing.
He's a local boy who's loved by the fans and who's probably up to Andy Carroll's elbows, but his small size doesn't hinder him in any way. He's always eager to get to the ball and close down opponents or feed his teammates.
He's only 22, so he is sometimes a little overzealous in challenges, but with more experience (and given Gerrard being out the rest of the season, he'll get plenty of minutes), he'll learn how to tackle better without taking any of his tenacity away.
He'll play as a holding midfielder or he'll burst forward to just behind his strikers throughout the night. As long as he's on the pitch, he'll give his all.
Spearing could be a natural successor to Steven Gerrard in every way.
He's grown up a Red as both a fan and a player. He'll get plenty of opportunities to improve and prove himself at a young age, and if he can sharpen his passing and shooting skills a bit, he could put himself in position to receive the captain's armband around the same time Stevie did.
Being Scouse, he's already hugely important to the supporters, and the faith they have in him should only spur him on.
5. Jonjo Shelvey
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The Reds brought Jonjo Shelvey in last summer from Charlton Athletic, and though Reds fans hadn't seen much of him, whatever he was doing impressed Kenny Dalglish. That should be enough for all Reds fans.
At 19, he's had leadership experience in captaining the England U-19 side and has drawn plenty of comparisons to a young Steven Gerrard.
He hasn't scored for the Reds yet, but he's got a good goalscoring record for a midfielder for Charlton and England, and he is another player the Reds' faithful love to see on the pitch.
He can dominate the midfield and pass the ball all over the pitch, and his scoring touch will only get better with age. He suffered an unfortunate injury earlier this year but has recently returned to training and should see some good minutes in the final six games of the season.
4. Lucas Leiva
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Lucas Leiva is just 24, but on the pitch, he sure seems older. He was thrust into the starting XI last season after Xabi Alonso left, and though it took time to steady himself and win over the Anfield faithful, he's never wavered in his desire to prove himself.
He shuts down the midfield with regularity now, and his knack for giving away cheap free kicks has gone, along with his sometimes rash challenges.
He's playing like a guy who's been in the Premier League his whole life. He doesn't have Gerrard's scoring touch, but he has his fierceness and knack for being in the right place at the right time.
When he plays with Gerrard, he is the holding midfielder, but he's shown that he can move forward as well as anybody. The more time he gets in that role, the better his shooting will get, and his importance to Liverpool will only increase in the coming years.
3. Luis Suarez
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The team sheet says Luis Suarez is a striker, but the Uruguayan is all over the pitch during the game. More than anything, he's determined.
The best example of this is Suarez's performance against Manchester City on Monday. He didn't get on the score sheet, but his tracking back to midfield and penetrating runs set the tempo for Liverpool.
More than that, the guy looked completely frustrated and annoyed when he was called for offside (rightly so) when his team was already 3-0 up. He was just as annoyed when he mis-kicked a ball minutes later in what was a great chance for him but would've been just a half chance for many others.
He's determined to score and plays at his hardest at every moment, whether his team is up 3-0 going into the second half or down 0-3.
Like Gerrard, Suarez can score at almost any instance. If the ball is at his feet, watch out.
Suarez seems very eager to prove himself at Liverpool and just needs to learn the language—Scouse, of course, English would do him no good. After he's done that, he can become a real force in the dressing room as well as on the pitch.
2. Raul Meireles
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Raul Meireles has sparked into life under Kenny Dalglish and has been the definition of "Mr. Right Place at the Right Time."
He's scored a few tap-ins and a couple stunners for Liverpool since the turn of the year, but mostly, he's scored important goals.
He opened his account against Everton—talk about endearing yourself to the fans—and scored the winner at Stamford Bridge.
More importantly, since Kenny came on, he hasn't had many moments of wastefulness in front of goal. When in a good position, he makes something of it.
In the Premier League, it's crucial to get midfielders in the box to pick up loose balls, and Meireles is the prime example of just how crucial it is.
His goal against Wolves in January also showcased his sublime touch that Liverpool fans can certainly expect to see more of in the future. He can play just behind the strikers, allowing Gerrard to boss play around from central midfield, and he has a way of always making his presence known on the pitch.
Whether he does it by scoring goals or providing sublime crosses (like the one Andy Carroll excellently headed into the back of the net against Manchester City on Monday), he's not someone you can forget about. He'll make you pay.
1. Dirk Kuyt
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As mentioned before, injuries are starting to take more and more games away from Steven Gerrard. Liverpool certainly need a Gerrard for the future, but they need one just as badly for the immediate future, as well.
Even though Dirk Kuyt is just a few months younger than Stevie, he's never really had long-term injury problems. Obviously, the armband goes to Jamie Carragher in Gerrard's absence. Even though he's in defense, I'm sure they can hear him screaming over in Manchester, but Kuyt is definitely the next in line.
Nothing against Pepe Reina, but I feel that an outfielder should wear the armband simply because they are more involved in the whole game. In the dressing room, Reina is surely one of the most commanding voices.
But Kuyt is such a workhorse on the pitch. His goal record may not show it, but he never stops working throughout a game. Now that he's got some other forwards doing the same, he can be more effective and has gotten on the score sheet more.
It's also worth noting that since he came to Liverpool in 2006, the Reds have lost just three Premier League games in which Kuyt has scored.
In Gerrard's absence, he is the Reds' penalty taker and looks almost as cool from the spot. In the end, he rarely misses, so what's the difference?
Kuyt gets involved in the action all over the pitch, he scores all over the pitch and scores important goals at that. Liverpool have to start getting used to life without Steven Gerrard, and Kuyt has all the leadership qualities and abilities to make Stevie's absences go a little smoother.