OK, I was meant to do this on the 25th, but exam revision meant I wasn't able to. So whilst reading this, please pretend it is still the 25th. It will feel much more nostalgic then.
Six years ago, Liverpool had their fairytale ending in what was their greatest triumph since the last league title. Nobody fancied the Reds, falling behind in the league and rarely having any input in the title race. The treble of 2001 was a turning point, but May 25th, 2005, was the day the red half of Merseyside started to believe again.
Many times during the campaign, Liverpool looked down and out but somehow managed to conjure up a moment of magic which left us all believing. From being 1-0 down against Olympiakos at Anfield needing three goals to go through to the knockout stages. Two of those came from unlikely sources, but Captain Fantastic, Steven Gerrard, fired home that goal that sent the Kop wild.
Further successes against Bayer Leverkusen and a phenomenal display at Juventus set up the English semifinal between Liverpool and that seasons Premier League champions, Chelsea. A Luis Garcia goal early on in the horrifically tense second leg set up a final with AC Milan at the Ataturk Stadium in what was their first final since 1985.
Now I really shouldn't have to explain the rest: 3-0 down, six-minute comeback, Jerzy Dudek double save, penalty kick heroics. But how do those players who won the 2005 Champions League compare to the team that finished this seasons Premier League sixth and without European football for 2011/2012?
This will be done in the 4-5-1 formation that is used regularly today and was used at kick off of the Champions League Final. Stats courtesy of Liverpoolfc.tv
Dietmar Hamann- Pains me to leave him out, but he did not start in the final but was the inspiration in the second half and changed the game.
Djibril Cisse- Also a substitute, scored a penalty, was unlucky with his injury but deserves some credit at least.
Vladimir Smicer- The other substitute, left after the final but went out with a bang. Scored the second and a penalty.
Igor Biscan- Didn't play, and you may find it slightly odd, but his performances when needed were impeccable. Shined against Chelsea in the semifinal.
Andy Carroll- Not played much but has made an impact, and if it wasn't for the person you will see later on, would definitely be on this list.
Daniel Agger- Would be on this list if it wasn't for his injuries this season, very unlucky.
Fabio Aurelio- Injuries are recurring here aren't they? Probably the only true left back at the club, but like I said, too injury prone.
The goalkeeping hero of the final. Made countless saves in the second half to keep Liverpool fighting for the trophy. An astonishing double save (may not have known about the second one too well) from Andriy Shevchenko's point blank shot.
Saved two of Milan's three missed penalties, including the decisive spot kick. His career on Merseyside was not without its errors, and for this he won't be remembered as the greatest goalkeeper to ever stand between the goalposts for Liverpool, but I'm pretty sure most fans have let him off for that. If you disagree, have a look at the 100 Players Who Shook the Kop. Ranked in at No. 36.
Jerzy will always have a place in the heart of Liverpool fans, however, he probably won't be considered as the best keeper in recent times. Hardly his fault, and the next slide shows you why.
Jerzy Dudek Stats:
- Five Winners Medals
- Five Runners-Up Medals
- Games Played: 185
You do have to feel sorry for Jerzy, as here is his replacement. Jose Manuel Reina, or as he prefers, Pepe Reina. Possibly the best goalkeeper Liverpool have had in the Premier League Era, and there is nothing that can be doubted there.
He, like Dudek, had some errors in his first season but is now known as one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the league. Three consecutive Golden Glove awards don't lie. He had his own heroics, in the 2006 FA Cup final, but for now, he misses out on that Champions League medal that Dudek has.
Pepe Reina Stats:
- Three Winners Medals
- Two Runners-Up Medals
- Three Barclays Golden Glove Awards
- Games Played: 307
Steve Finnan joined Liverpool in 2003. Injuries often scuppered the players chance at making more appearences for the club in his five'-year spell, but when he did play, he could be counted upon both defensively and down the wing to support the attack.
He may have only scored one goal in his career, but he more than made up for that in his assists. He may not have made the greatest impact in the Champions League final, but in his own way he assisted by making way for Dietmar Hamann at halftime (not what he would want to be remembered for, but that's how things often go).
The right back spot was his for most of his stay until the arrival of Alvaro Arbeloa, but it is safe to say he was in his prime whilst wearing the famous red shirt.
Steve Finnan Stats:
- Games Played: 217
- Goals: One
- Four Winners Medals
- Three Runners-up Medals
You might be suprised by this inclusion here, but as you read on, you will understand why.
At 21 years old, the only way Martin Kelly can go is upwards. He impressed on his debut against PSV Eindhoven two years ago coming off the bench along with Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby. Already this season, he has made a handful of appearences and impressed in every one of them.
Probably one of the most consistent players recently, if injuries hadn't blighted his season, he would have made many more appearances. Comparisons have already been made between Kelly and a young Jamie Carragher, for his willingness to play anywhere along the back four and still do his best.
Personally, I hope he retains the right back spot for next season as there are bright things in his future, hopefully silverware!
Martin Kelly Stats:
- Games Played: 27
- Goals: Zero
- No senior honours
"Don't blame it on Biscan, don't blame it on Finnan, don't blame it on Hamann, blame it on Traoré. He just can't, he just can't, he just can't control his feet."
I think that chant sung by the fans sums it up quite well. Granted, he played all right in the Final in 2005, but that aside, his career will be remembered for error after error after error. One of many French players bought by Gerard Houllier during his time as manager and like many of them, he proved to be a flop.
He will always be remembered for scoring an own goal against Burnley in the FA Cup Third Round in 2005. It is hard to describe, so the best way is just to look here. (Disclaimer: Six years on, this will still have you tearing your hair out)
Djimi Traore Stats:
- Games Played: 141
- Goals Scored: One
- Winners Medals: Four
- Runners-Up Medals: Three
Right, back to a bit of normality. Glen Johnson joined Liverpool in 2009 to give competition to Alvaro Arbeloa. Safe to say he won that competition. You may be wondering why I have put him at left back, but there is good reason for that. Currently there is only one natural senior left back at the club, the injury prone Fabio Aurelio, and as he has been played here recently, it was the only logical choice.
Defensively he is better than Djimi Traore, but that isn't actually that difficult. However, his attacking plays are one of the best for a fullback, and recently his defensive play has improved. His pace is difficult for opponents, and he has proven he is adept at crossing the ball or even shooting with either foot as is shown by some of the brilliant goals he has scored for the Reds.
Many think he would be better adapted at being a winger, and I am one of those people, but for now he is the first choice fullback (on either flank) for Liverpool, and at 26 years old, that should be the case for years to come.
Glen Johnson Stats:
- Games Played: 70
- Goals Scored: Five
- No honours for Liverpool
Right now, the Liverpool fans reading this will be sitting back and smiling whilst they imagine these two at the heart of defence. I'm not old enough to remember, but coming from a family of Liverpool fans, this partnership made them reminisce about the defence of the 80s. I can't really talk about that', so let's start by talking about the Big Finn, Sami Hyypia.
Rewind back to 1999. If I had said to you back then that Sami was going to be a star for the club you would be in stitches. If I then told you that £2.6 million was spent to bring him to the club, you would go into a state of shock. Safe to say, the only way you can describe that now is bargain, and credit to the cameraman who spotted him.
For a decade, Hyypia was the heart of the defence and started by striking up a formidable partnership with Stephane Henchoz. For a short period of time, he was also captain, but for the first time in his career he found himself under too much pressure and relinquished that burden to the current captain, Steven Gerrard.
He wasn't the quickest, but he was probably the smartest. One of the first names on the team sheet from 1999 until the signings of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger, he took a step backwards and became a role model for the new youngsters. He may have been getting on, but he never showed it. To envision this, think back to the 4-1 defeat of Man Utd. Hyypia was on the bench, but minutes before kick off he was informed he was starting due to injuries, and it didn't half pay off.
His consistency helped Liverpool to the Champions League trophy, and throughout his career, he scored a large amount of goals for a centre half, was always a threat in the air and good with his feet. Don't believe me? Look up his goal against Juventus.
Sami Hyypia Stats:
- Games Played: 464
- Goals: 35
- Winners Medals: 10
- Runners-Up Medals: Six
Onto our second centre-back, Mr. Liverpool, Jamie Carragher. One of the most consistent defenders in the country, you could always rely on Carra to defend with his life. In his early career, he was often used as a left back, then right back but was never truely comfortable in the wide areas. Many people would have left from frustration, but Carragher is as loyal as they come, and his loyalty paid off when he was paired at centre back with Hyypia. Coincidently this was the season Liverpool won the Champions League, and he has been the mainstay there since.
He may not be too well viewed by many English fans, but you can't blame him for retiring from international football. On a side note, thank you to the Wolly with the Brolly for that. We'll be getting a few more seasons out of him without worrying about injuries representing the country.
In the Champions League winning season, he performed brilliantly, especially in the final. He played his heart out and even with cramp, managed to put in a tremendous sliding tackle to deny a Milan attack. It's this loyalty that has had fans singing, "We all dream of a team of Carraghers," but like the man said himself, the team wouldn't score many.
Jamie Carragher Stats:
- Games Played: 668
- Goals: Five
- Winners Medals: 10
- Runners-Up Medals: Six
This part may as well just be about Martin Skrtel as I wrote enough about Carragher in the slide before.
He may have his skeptics, but playing the majority of the season at centre back, including every game in the League shows that his injury troubles are hopefully behind him. Still prone to the odd error, this bull of a man strikes fear into the hearts of Premier League attackers.
He is an unnerving presence in the air to both strikers and defenders. There are still some things he needs to learn but with Carragher at his side, any inconsistencies should soon start to disappear from his game.
The fact that he has had to fight for his place with players such as Agger and Kyrgiakos and with the emergence of new young defenders such as Danny Wilson, the fact he has been an ever-present in the team shows the quality that this man possesses. He still has a lot to prove, but at 26 years old, he has years of football ahead of him.
Martin Skrtel Stats:
- Games Played: 128
- Goals Scored: Three
- No Honours
I decided on putting a video here just so you can see why Riise will always have a place at Anfield.
Anyway, John Arne Riise, whether at left back or left midfield, could always be trusted to do his best against any team, and with his rocket of a left foot, so could a goal. It was this skill which led to fans singing his name to the tune of DJ Otzi's Hey Baby, as you can hear from the video.
Bursting onto Merseyside in 2001, he made an instant impact on his debut, scoring in the European Super Cup against then Champions League Holders, Bayern Munich. It didn't take long for him to place himself in the memory of the Kop with the goal from the video above.
Unfortunately his time had to come to an end, and he was sold to Roma after a lacklustre season by his standards, with his only goal being an own goal. He was not helped either by the form of Fabio Aurelio who made the left back spot his own, and new signings on the wing meant Riise was forced to warm the bench for much of his last season. Maybe with foresight he would still be at the club, but things cannot be changed now, and that final season was the only smudge on an otherwise impressive career in the red shirt.
John Arne Riise Stats:
- Games Played: 348
- Goals: 31
- Winners Medals: Seven
- Runners-up Medals: Five
Another left winger with a catchy song. Maxi's impressive form towards the back end of this season was impeccable, which is why it is common to hear his name being sung round Anfield.
Rafael Benitez never did too well on the free transfer market. Andriy Voronin, Philipp Degen and Milan Jovanovich have all proven to be below par by Liverpool's standards, and it seemed that Maxi would be joining that list. But in the midst of two hammer blows to the fans, Maxi stood up and made a name for himself.
Like most of the team, he has benefited from the sale of Fernando Torres and the injury to Steven Gerrard. He was part of a pack that proved to the footballing world that Liverpool were not a two-man team, and too much emphasis had been placed on them.
It has only been the past couple of months that Maxi has shone, before that he was just another winger who did not seem to be up to scratch. A hat trick against Birmingham showed everyone just what he could do, and he followed that up with another goal against Newcastle and another hat trick at Fulham. Seven goals in three games has proven that he still has the quality which was seen at the 2006 World Cup and could be the answer (at least in the short term) to the winger crisis.
Maxi Rodriguez Stats:
- Games Played: 52
- Goals: 11
- No Honours for Liverpool
I like controversy, so let's start this with the goal against Chelsea in the semifinal Second Leg.
Done? Made your minds up?
OK, onto Luis Garcia. Part of the new intake of Spanish talent brought in by Rafa, Luis soon adapted to life in England and was causing all sorts of problems for defences with his speed and trickery. Yes he could overdo it a bit, and that was one frustration about him but he was still a brilliant player. Signed from Barcelona, his debut season definitely left an impact.
I watched Jamie Carragher's testimonial at the start of the season in which Little Luis took part. Despite being gone from Liverpool for three years, he was still sublime and even netted himself a goal. Sometimes people are just born with talent, and Luis Garcia is definitely one of those people.
Crucial in the Champions League run, he scored many important and brilliant, goals including a superb long range lob against Juventus that helped send Liverpool through to the semifinals. In the semifinals, he also left his mark by scoring the only goal against Chelsea in front of the Kop to put the Reds into the Final in Istanbul.
Sadly, his second season was not as brilliant as his first, and his final season was abruptly ended by a knee injury. Coming in at 43rd in the 100 Players Who Shook the Kop, it is obvious he deserved his place in the Red shirt.
By the way, it was a goal.
Luis Garcia Stats:
- Games: 121
- Goals: 30
- Winners Medals: Four
- Runners-Up Medals: One
He has had his critics, but the Dutchman certainly does not deserve them. If you read this article from 2008, it describes perfectly Kuyt's willingness to do anything for the team and still put in a brilliant performance. Originally brought in as a striker due to his impressive goalscoring record for Feyenoord in the Eredivisie (71 goals in 101 league games), like many strikers to come from Holland, the Premier League turned out to be a bigger step up than people had hoped for him.
However, Rafael Benitez noticed Kuyt's energy and decided that he could be utilised on the wing, an area which has always plagued Liverpool. Steven Gerrard stated in his autobiography that playing on the right wing was know as "the Graveyard Shift," but this did not deter Kuyt. He may not have been scoring often until recently, but he started to make more assists which are just as valuable.
Dirk Kuyt is also another player who has benefited from the sale of Fernando Torres. He has started scoring more often and been getting into positions to score from, the biggest statement of this being his hat trick against Man Utd this season. The goals may have had a total distance of seven yards, but that is from being in the right place at the right time, making those who had seen him play before think back to his Feyenoord days.
Dirk will always be thought of as a fan favourite. Liverpool enjoy players who play with their heart on their sleeve, and Kuyt is definitely in this category.
Dirk Kuyt Stats:
- Games Played: 241
- Goals: 65
- No Winners Medals
- Two Runners-Up Medals
This is mainly going to be on Xabi Alonso, I will talk about Gerrard later.
Talk to a Liverpool fan about Xabi Alonso. They will reply to you with a sound of of bitterness but also of one that reminisces about pin-point passing, midfield domination and the occasional goal from his own half. For his time at Liverpool, he was the master of midfield. It was probably his signing that made Gerrard into the player he is today, as he allowed Gerrard to make the forward runs which have made him a much more attacking player.
Signed from Real Sociedad alongside other Spaniards such as Luis Garcia in 2004, he immediately wowed fans in the Premier League with defence splitting passes, performed with such precision that you would have to look twice if he ever misplaced a pass in disbelief. He had many midfield partners in his time, Gerrard, Mascherano, Sissoko, Lucas, but he has brought out the best in all of them by allowing them to play to their strengths and not worry about being the playmaker.
In the Champions League Final, he was almost impossible to pass in the second half and scored the equalising goal after missing the penalty. He was instrumental to the triumph in Istanbul and also in Liverpool's attempt to win the Premier League in 2008/09.
It still upsets Liverpool fans when they think of Xabi Alonso and what could have been if he had remained at the club, but there is always hope that a return could be on the cards in the future.
Xabi Alonso Stats:
- Games Played: 210
- Goals: 19
- Four Winners Medals
- Three Runners-Up Medals
I'll start here with Raul Meireles. If there is something to be remembered from Roy Hodgson's ill-fated time as manager of Liverpool, it is that he was the man who signed Meireles. A summer 2010 transfer, he took his time to find his feet at Anfield, but toward the end of Hodgson's reign, he started to show the quality that was expected of him. This was just the start though.
With the installation of Kenny Dalglish as manager, Raul came out of his shell and almost became a new player scoring four goals in five games against Chelsea, Wolves, Everton and Stoke City. Not quite what was expected of him as he was a replacement for the outgoing Alberto Aquilani and supposed to be the answer to the hole left by Xabi Alonso. Recently, he has become a replacement for Steven Gerrard whilst he has been injured, and it is in this position that he has excelled.
His performances have not gone unnoticed outside of Merseyside also. He won the PFA Fans' Player of the Year for 2011, often more highly regarded as an award as it is voted for by fans of all teams.
Raul Meireles Stats:
- Games Played: 41
- Goals Scored: Five
- No Honours for Liverpool
Lucas Leiva by most peoples standards should have been sold a long time ago. Only as a Liverpool fan you can truely appreciate his input to the team. The Brazilian has gone from being the laughing stock of the Premier League, to Liverpool's Player Of The Season 2010/11. How can someone so bad be giving that accolade?
I might be getting a bit ahead of myself here but I believe Lucas is starting to mold into a replacement for Xabi Alonso. Sure his passing is not as pinpoint, but he does have the most successful passes for the Premier League this season, so there must be something happening there. He rarely scores but is usually utilised as a defensive midfielder, so it is there that he should be judged.
His performances this season have been brilliant, especially in the big games, and he has recently struck up a good understanding with young Jay Spearing. He may still get his critics, but he is still young and has a lot to learn. A bad player would not be in the first team for Brazil's national team would he?
Lucas Leiva Stats:
- Games Played: 168
- Goals: Six
- No Honours for Liverpool
Poor Harry Kewell. One of the most talented players to ever grace a football pitch but with legs like matchsticks. His injury record makes Michael Owen look indestructible. Add to that in his record in Liverpool's four Cup final matches that he took part in during his short career, he amassed a total of 158 minutes playing time out of a possible 450. In three of those matches, he was subbed off with injury. That is pretty much the summary of Harry Kewell's Liverpool career.
Much was expected of him when he joined, and he may have had his injury problems, but surely £5 million was a bargain? It proved not to be the case, and although there were flashes of his brilliance, such as the goal against Merseyside rivals, Everton.
I may be being slightly harsh here. His first season at Liverpool was not horrific. He played the majority of games and chipped in with his fair share of goals, but it's difficult to name the high points of that season, and in his later career, he was more or less a reserve player whilst trying to regain fitness.
We may never know how good he would have been for the club if he had no injury problems, but alas, he will be remembered for spending more time on a stretcher than the pitch, and for being booed off the pitch when he was injured in the 2005 Final.
Harry Kewell Stats:
- Games Played: 139
- Goals: 16
- Two Winners Medals
- Three Runners-Up Medals
This is why I left out Steven Gerrard in the previous slide. One of only two players (the other being Carragher) still at the club from that famous night in Istanbul, you don't really need me to tell you how great Gerrard has been for Liverpool.
To cut it short, Gerrard has been Liverpool's main man since being given the captaincy in 2003. In fact, he has held the captaincy for longer than any other captain for the other 19 Premier League teams. This is when he began to shine. Known for being slightly reckless before, this gave him responsibility and helped Gerrard to mature into the player you see today.
He has been the talisman for multiple comebacks, scored countless amazing goals and is probably the best player to grace the Anfield pitch since Kenny Dalglish. His brilliance in the 2006 FA Cup Final was the reason why it is now known as "The Gerrard Final" and possibly the greatest FA Cup Final in history add to that the greatest cup final goal.
But there is too much to talk about, so I will focus on the 2005 Champions League campaign. Down and out in the last game of the group, needing a goal in the dying minutes, having just had one disallowed, Stevie G stepped up. Firing an unstoppable shot into the back of the net sending the Anfield crowd crazy, whilst also making Andy Gray lose control (you all know the line).
He continued this brilliant form through the knockout stages and to the final. Again, staring defeat in the face, one man jumped and powered in a header past Dida to start the remarkable comeback and fire the team into life.
There's no doubting Steven Gerrard's quality, and although all the effort he has put into Liverpool is starting to show with injuries popping up more regularly, he is still the face of Liverpool and will be for a few more years.
Steven Gerrard Facts:
- Games Played: 557
- Goals Scored: 140
- 10 Winners Medals
- Six Runners-Up Medals
- Two PFA Fans' Player of the Year
- One PFA Players' Player of the Year
- One PFA Young Player of the Year
- One FWA Footballer of the Year
- One UEFA Club Footballer of the Year
- One England Player of the Year
- Third Place Ballon d'Or 2005
The thing I remember most about Milan Baros is, for some reason, he wore No. 5. Yes, not too memorable but still slightly more memorable than some of the players who were signed by Gerard Houllier.
He never really came to the front line until becoming top goalscorer at Euro 2004. Pundits and fans alike all saw this as the time he would shine for Liverpool and pay them back for all the hard work they put in for him to reach his potential. That never came to be, even when he was given the chance to shine with Djibril Cissé's unfortunate leg break and the mega flop that was called Fernando Morientes. One person cannot be given too many chances, and this proved to be true when he was sold after the Champions League triumph.
I might be talking to much about the league though. It was in Europe where he showed the best of his abilities. Scoring a couple of goals as a lone striker, which as many people know is difficult to play as. An ever-present in the competition, he has left his mark on the club, particularly the Champions League Trophy which he dropped and the dented trophy still remains in the Anfield trophy room.
Milan Baros Stats:
- Games Played: 108
- Goals Scored: 27
- Two Winners Medals
Every cloud has it's silver lining, and Liverpool's came from the little Uruguayan, Luis Suarez. Bought to compliment Fernando Torres up front, he became the star striker when "El Traidor" decided to leave for pastures blue (that's turned out well). It was an upsetting time for fans, but they were soon over it, and this is certainly no rebound; Luis Suarez is the real deal.
Contraversial, yes. Fiery, yes. Does it matter? He has mesmorised fans and pundits with his trickery and his seemingly impossible ability to keep the ball at his feet and ease his way through defences. He has been one of Liverpool's players of the season, not bad for a guy who only joined in January. His one major flaw is that he will have to learn English, but knowing Spanish and Dutch and with Liverpool having a decent amount of players who speak those languages, he will be fine for now.
Most people at 3-0 up would just sit back and relax, but not Luis. He is always looking for more goals; his desire to win is undeniable. His work rate is phenomenal, and he seems to pop up everywhere on the pitch trying to win the ball and start up a Liverpool attack.
His career is only just kicking off but it has already sky rocketed, and it can only get better from here. Look for a deadly partnership with the other new striker, Andy Carroll, to terrorise defences for years to come. Liverpool just can't seem to get enough.
Luis Suarez Stats:
- Games Played: 13
- Goals: Four
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina - If it wasn't for Reina, this would have definitely been Dudek's place, sadly he has to take a back seat.
Right Back: Steve Finnan - Kelly is good but still young and learning. He has the potential to be better than Finnan, however, the choice now it has to be Steve
Left Back: Glen Johnson - I don't really need to say anything here
Centre Backs: Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher - No contest. The best defensive partnership seen on Merseyside in a long time
Left Midfielder: John Arne Riise - Maxi has been good recently, but was inconsistent beforehand. Riise could still get into the current team and was brilliant for most of his time at Liverpool.
Right Midfielder: Dirk Kuyt - Garcia was great, but Kuyt embodies Liverpool spirit. His willingness to keep on playing puts him here
Centre Midfielders: Xabi Alonso and Raul Meireles - Xabi and Raul would have made a brilliant partnership, maybe this could be on the cards in the future? One can dream.
Attacking Midfielder: Steven Gerrard - Even if Kewell wasn't so injury prone, this would still be Gerrard's place. Captain Fantastic will always be ahead.
Striker: Luis Suarez - The new kid easily takes this place. Baros was OK, but nothing compared to the feisty Uruguayan striker who has won the heart of the Anfield faithful
Hope you have enjoyed reading this and feel free to comment. Do you agree with my selection of players from the slides? Or would you rather see Riise playing left back and someone else left midfield. Let me know