Liverpool FC: Picking the All-Time Fantasy Liverpool XI

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2011

Liverpool FC: Picking the All-Time Fantasy Liverpool XI

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 01:   Liverpool fans on the Kop display banners in support of their manager Kenny Dalglish the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool  and Newcastle United at Anfield on May 1, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    If you were Kenny Dalglish, who would make your Liverpool team sheet each week? 

    Given the fact that Liverpool currently has a squad that is anything but stacked, it probably wouldn't take long.

    If you could pick from any player in Liverpool's illustrious history as England's most decorated club, it would not only take a lot more thought, but it'd probably get you a lot more excited to watch the game as well. 

    The first thing to decide would be your formation. Would you go with a typical 4-4-2 or a slightly more attacking 4-3-3? Or you could elect to have a three-man back line and five-man midfield.

    Or you could just put the best players in their positions and just assume the outcome will be a pretty good one.

    I've gone with a 4-3-3 that could also be a 4-4-2, but whatever the shape, these greats are going to score, and they won't let in a whole lot of goals either.

    I've got 11 stellar players on my team, but I had to leave out some legends to do so. 

Goalkeeper: Ray Clemence

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    1980:  Liverpool Goalkeeper Ray Clemence throws upfield during a match against West Bromwich Albion at Anfield in Liverpool, England \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Right off the bat, this was a tough decision. 

    Bruce Grobbleaar is probably one of the more entertaining, passionate and intimidating footballers to ever play the game, and his wobbly legs routine to distract opposing players during penalty shootouts combined his genius and madness perfectly.

    Pepe Reina is one of the most athletic keepers in the game today and can go a whole game without seeing the ball, but he will still pull off the spectacular save when you need him to. When the keeper needs to come collect the ball, there's no one you'd rather have in your net than Reina.

    But I decided on Ray Clemence simply because he won it all with the Reds and then some, and he set the bar extremely high for those who would follow him. 

    Clemence was between the sticks for Liverpool's most dominate decade on the continent and won a total of 18 trophies including five League titles, one League Cup, one FA Cup, two UEFA Cups and three European Cups. 

    During the 1978-79, Clemence kept 28 clean sheets and only allowed 16 goals in 42 League games, with only four of them coming at Anfield. That record wasn't broken until Chelsea allowed 15 in the 2004-05 season, but that was in 38 games. 

    His last appearance for Liverpool was the 1-0 victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup final in 1981.

    Clemence made 665 appearances for Liverpool over 11 seasons and kept 335 clean sheets and missed just six League games. He also didn't miss a single game from September 1972 until March 1978, starting 337 straight games between the sticks.  

Left Back: Alan Kennedy

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    27 May 1981:  Alan Kennedy of Liverpool who scored the only goal of the match kisses the trophy after the European Cup final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris. Liverpool won the match 1-0.                            \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport U
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Oh what Liverpool fans would give to have Alan Kennedy in the lineup again, or a left back for that matter. 

    Kennedy was brought to Merseyside by Bob Paisley and made his impact for the Reds on the biggest of stages. 

    He scored the only goal that saw Liverpool win the European Cup for the third time in the 1-0 win of Real Madrid in 1981. In the 1983 League Cup final against Manchester United, he scored the equalizer before the Reds went on to win 2-1.

    And he scored the decisive penalty in the shootout of the 1984 European Cup final victory over Roma.

    Kennedy won four League titles, four League Cups and three European Cups during his seven-year stint with the club.

    When Kennedy came to the club in 1978, Liverpool had had problems finding a consistent left-footed player to slot in at left back and had been playing mostly right-footed players there.

    Here's hoping Kenny Dalglish finds the next Alan Kennedy this summer. 

Center Back: Alan Hansen

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    1988:  Alan Hansen of Liverpool in action during a match against Queens Park Rangers at Anfield in Liverpool, England. Liverpool won the match 4-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Simon  Bruty/Allsport
    Simon Bruty/Getty Images

    Center back was another ridiculously difficult decision because I decided to field only two, and you could be justified in putting at least five Liverpool central defenders who had sublime careers in the team. 

    But a guy like Alan Hansen just couldn't be left out. 

    Hansen came to Liverpool in 1977 and for the next 13 years was a rock in defense for the Reds and helped the team to end one dominating decade and extend that streak into the next one.

    His breakout year was 1978-79 when the Reds only conceded 16 goals in 42 League games in what was one of Hansen's eight League titles. 

    Few center backs have ever been able to read a game as well as Hansen, and because of that, very few center forwards were able to cause the Scot much trouble at the back. 

    He also had the ability to control the ball and turn his stellar defense into attacking opportunities for his forwards. 

    Hansen was the captain when Liverpool won its first League and FA Cup double in 1986, and his Liverpool career ended after two FA Cups, three League Cups and three European Cups in addition to the eight League titles. 

Center Back: Jamie Carragher

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    LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 13:  Jamie Carragher of Liverpool celebrates victory after the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 13, 2008 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/G
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    I've left out Emlyn Hughes, the first Liverpool captain to lift the European cup, Mark Lawrenson and Phil Thompson among others because I just can't fathom a Liverpool team without Jamie Carragher.

    Carra has more heart than anyone in the game, and it's entirely Red.

    Although he grew up an Everton fan, Carra has been the heart and soul of Liverpool ever since he signed with the club in 1996. 

    Mr. Liverpool has played every defensive position for the Reds and was the first-choice left back in Liverpool's treble-winning 2000-01 season.

    When Rafa Benitez came to the club, Carra officially became Liverpool's stalwart and claimed a center back spot as his own. He partnered Sam Hyppia (another great) and was a a key ingredient in Liverpool's 2004-05 European campaign.

    In the Champions League final in Istanbul, Carra made two last-ditch interceptions in extra time to make sure the game went to penalties. 

    Carra never rests during a game constantly putting pressure on center forwards, making last-ditch tackles and barking orders and encouragement at his teammates. In fact, people over at Goodison can probably hear him screaming and wish he was a little closer. 

    In all likelihood, Carra will finish this season with 668 appearances for the Reds, putting him at second all-time, but at age 33, he's unlikely to overtake Ian Callaghan. 

    Carra has been a part of some of Liverpool's greatest matches, and you'd be hard pressed to find a player with seven own goals who is more adored by his fans.

Right Back: Phil Neal

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    1980:  Phil Neal of Liverpool indicates to his team mates during a match. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Phil Neal is the most decorated player in Liverpool history, and his 22 medals are also the most of any English player.

    Neal was Bob Paisley's first acquisition as Liverpool manager in 1974, and he quickly established himself in Liverpool's suffocating back four. From December 1974 to September 1983, Neal made 365 consecutive League starts, and he was a clinical penalty taker, which helped him to score 60 total goals for the Reds. 

    He played in Liverpool's first five European Cup finals and won four of them. He scored in Liverpool's first European Cup final victory in 1977 and scored Liverpool's goal in the 1-1 final against Roma in 1984 and went on to score in the victorious penalty shootout. 

    It seemed the only things he couldn't do at Liverpool were win the FA Cup and captain the side. He was captain for Liverpool's rare trophyless 1984-85 season, and he left in the middle of the following season. Liverpool had won the FA Cup in 1974 and then again in 1986, just missing Neal.

    In 11 seasons, he won eight League titles, four European Cups, four League Cups, one UEFA Cup and more. 

Left Midfield: John Barnes

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    1992:  John Barnes of Liverpool receives the ball during the FA Cup semi-final match against Portsmouth played at Villa Park in Birmingham, England. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. \ Mandatory Credit: Shaun  Botterill/Allsport
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Again, John Barnes is another player Liverpool fans are pining for right now.

    Few players have ever glided down the wings as gracefully as Barnes, and few had to do it in such challenging circumstances. Barnes is not only a key figure in Liverpool's history, but the Jamaican-born winger was one of the first high-profile black players in England and had to contend with racist chants for years. 

    But his football spoke for itself.

    He arrived in 1987 along with John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley, and under Kenny Dalglish, he helped create some of the most attractive football Anfield or England had ever seen.

    "Digger" had a sweet left foot that he used to devastating effect from free kicks and open play alike, and he scored 15 goals in his first season as well the League title and both Player of the Year awards. He was then instrumental in Liverpool's 3-2 FA Cup final victory over Everton in 1989. 

    His most prolific season was his 22-goal spurt in 1989-90, the last year the Reds won the League title. 

    Barnes had a great knowledge of football and was able to dictate play easily, and he rarely gave away possession. 

    Unfortunately, due to Liverpool's ban from European competition after the Heysel disaster, Barnes was not able to conquer Europe, but he won two League titles and two FA Cups over 10 years and scored 108 goals. 

Center Midfield: Steven Gerrard

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's third goal and his hat trick during the UEFA Europa League Group K match beteween Liverpool and SSC Napoli at Anfield on November 4, 2010 in Liverpool, England.
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    When the game is on the line and the clock is ticking down, you want Steven Gerrard on your team. Chances are, he'll pull a moment of magic out of absolutely nothing. That's what Captain Fantastic does. 

    Stevie G. is one of the most complete footballers in the game today and is surely one of the best box-to-box midfielders, and he has been one of the most inspirational captains the Reds have ever had. 

    In his early years at Liverpool, he scored unbelievable goals out of nothing to pick Liverpool up in its toughest moments: Istanbul, the Gerrard Final, Olympiacos and more.

    As he's aged, he's controlled the game with ease, and he never fails to step up on the biggest stages. 

    Gerrard has scored in the final of the Champions League, FA Cup, UEFA Cup and League Cup and is the only player to do so. He's also the highest scoring English footballer in European competition with 38 goals.

    Despite a few flirtations with Chelsea, Gerrard is Liverpool through and through and has excited the Reds faithful like almost no other player has before.

    Under Kenny Dalglish, there's no reason Stevie G. couldn't finally win the coveted Premier League trophy, and hopefully that'll come soon because no two players deserve it more than Stevie and Carra.   

Right Midfield: Ian Callaghan

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    1967:  Ian Callaghan of Liverpool in action during a Football League Division One match against Liverpool at White Hart Lane in London.  \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Even though Ian Callaghan has about 200 games on Jamie Carragher, he'd probably want to suit up again to just put a bit more distance on the all-time appearance list. 

    Cally started as a Red in 1960 when Liverpool was in the Second Division, and left 18 years later when Liverpool was on top of English and European football. He was on the field for Liverpool's first game in Europe, and he was back for the club's first European Cup 13 years later.

    He established himself in the first team in 1961-62 under Bill Shankly, and he helped gain promotion back to the First Division after an eight-year absence. His last game for Liverpool was the 1978 European Cup final victory. Talk about climbing the ladder. 

    In 857 appearances, Callaghan scored 68 goals (50 League) and won five League titles, two FA Cups, two European Cups and two UEFA Cups. The only trophy he didn't win was the League Cup, having been a runner-up his final season.  

Stiker/Attacking Midfielder: Kenny Dalglish

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    April 1986:  Portrait of Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool after a match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London. Liverpool won the match 1-0 and clinched the league title. \ Mandatory Credit: David  Cannon/Allsport
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    No matter who you ask, any Liverpool fan is likely to tell you Kenny Dalglish is the greatest Red of all time. There's probably no Liverpool all-time XI without the King. 

    King Kenny came to Liverpool after the club's first European Cup victory in 1977 and a dominant stretch since gaining promotion in 1962, and he and his brilliant footballing mind made the next 13 years even more successful. 

    Unlike many of his teammates, Kenny was already a well-known talent thanks to his plaudits with Celtic, but he became even greater as a Red. 

    He scored 31 goals in his first season under Bob Paisley, the biggest of which was the goal in the 1978 European Cup final to seal the victory over FC Bruges.

    Dalglish's innate knowledge of the game allowed him to score seemingly with ease or to find his teammates before even they knew what was happening.

    Joe Fagan resigned as Liverpool manager after the Heysel disaster in 1985, and Kenny became player-manager and led the team to its first FA Cup and League title double in 1985-86. 

    Kenny scored 172 goals for Liverpool and created countless others on his way to winning (as a player) six League titles, three European Cups, one FA Cup and four League Cups. From the touchline, he led Liverpool to three more League titles, two FA Cups and one League Cup (Liverpool was banned from European competition the rest of his time in charge). 

    Here's hoping that list gets longer in the coming years. 

Striker: Ian Rush

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    28 FEB 1995:  IAN RUSH OF LIVERPOOL CELEBRATES HIS GOAL, SECOND FOR LIVERPOOL WIMBLEDON V LIVERPOOL. IN THE FA CUP FIFTH ROUND REPLAY AT SELHURST PARK Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    The all-time XI has to have the all-time goalscorer. Ian Rush scored an obscene number of goals for Liverpool in the '80s and '90s, and with his talent, he could probably still top the charts today. 

    It took Rushie a few games to settle in with the Reds after he arrived in 1980, but he soon struck up an almost telepathic partnership with Kenny Dalglish, and there was almost no stopping him. 

    His pace and, even more importantly, his determination, gave central defenders nightmares. He was a prolific striker for the Reds as they dominated the '80s, and he won every major trophy available to him.

    He spent 1987-88 on vacation in Italy but picked up right where he left off when he returned to Merseyside. 

    His most prolific season as a Red was 1983-84 when he scored 47 goals in 65 games making him the first British player to win the European Golden Boot, and the thing that endeared Liverpool fans most were his performances in the Merseyside Derby. He holds the record for 25 goals against Everton, the highest for either team in the Derby.

    In 1992, Rush finally overtook Roger Hunt on the all-time scoring list with his 287th goal for Liverpool, and he was nowhere near done.

    He left Liverpool in 1996 with 346 goals, five League titles, three FA cups, five League Cups (the first player to win that many) and one European Cup.  

Striker: Roger Hunt

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    Forward is another position where Liverpool has been incredibly blessed, and several legends just had to be left out. Although, it would be fun to just put out 10 of Liverpool's best strikers and see what happens.

    Billy Liddell came around during a miserable spell for Liverpool, but he was no less prolific because of it. Gordon Hodgson was a Red when the city of Liverpool was under the shadow of Everton, but he still averaged 20 goals a season for 10 years, and his record of 17 hat tricks is still to be beaten.

    Robbie Fowler is, well, God and probably could've had a real shot at Ian Rush's record and more had he not been sold in 2001. And Michael Owen's phenomenal goals per game ratio was also truly outstanding. 

    But Roger Hunt, under the leadership of Bill Shankly, led the Reds back to the top division, scoring 41 goals in 41 games (he appeared in all but one game) in the 1961-62 as Liverpool stormed its way back into the First Division.

    Hunt was the club's top scorer for eight straight seasons, and in 11 years he won the League title twice and opened the scoring in the FA Cup final in 1965, which went on to become Liverpool's first FA Cup victory. 

    His work rate and determination matched that of Rush, so who wouldn't love to see the two up front together with Kenny Dalglish feeding them the ball?

    He still holds the record for the most league goals in a season (41), most hat tricks in a season (five, 1961-62) and overall League goals (245).

    So, who makes your team? 

     

    *Photo courtesy of lfc.tv