When Luis Suarez arrived at Liverpool in January, almost as much was made about the jersey number he was assigned as his actual signing. The No. 7 shirt is without question the most famous of all numbers when it comes to Liverpool players past and present. In this article I set out to name my top seven players to grace that jersey.
Hope you enjoy.
Too soon? Of course it's too soon to name Suarez as one of the Liverpool greats, but there's no doubting his potential and the endless possibilities his presence at Liverpool creates.
Suarez is arguably the most exciting player Anfield has seen since Steve McManaman roamed the famous pitch. While Liverpool have had plenty of great players during the years since Shaggy took his talents to Real Madrid, I for one can think of one who had fans on the edge of their seats every time he touched the ball.
Wherever Suarez receives the ball on the pitch, fans sense that some magic may be about to occur, and that's something I haven't experienced since the days when McManaman was a Red. From the moment Suarez made his debut against Stoke, Liverpool fans have believed that we have a truly great striker to build our future around.
While in reality he's not one of the seven best to wear the jersey at the moment, Suarez has the ability to eventually land himself in the top four, and after reading this article I'm sure you'll agree that's exclusive company.
Nigel Clough and Vladimir Smicer.
First of all let me say that I don't rate either of these as having been great players for Liverpool, neither was worthy of the sacred jersey but during their time at Liverpool both played huge roles in games that will go down in club history. I should also point out that Smicer wasn't actually wearing the No. 7 shirt when he had his greatest moment (having given it up for Harry Kewell), but I've chosen to overlook that fact as his greatest Liverpool moment also happens to be one of the greatest moments in club history.
So first of all Clough. His greatest match in a Liverpool jersey was, without question, in the legendary 3-3 draw against Manchester when Liverpool came back from being dead and buried at 3-0 down to somehow snatch a draw. Without Clough, that simply wouldn't have happened. When those around him seemed to have given up hope and were starting damage control, Clough took the game by the scruff of the neck and smashed two goals past the great Peter Schmeiceal to haul his team back into the game and set the stage for the second half onslaught which saw Neil Ruddock crash a late equalizer into the United net giving Liverpool the improbable of draws.
While no trophies were handed out for that match, it is regarded as one of the greatest ever seen in English football and served notice to Liverpool players and fans alike that when it comes to games against United, you never say game over.
Now on to Vladi and I don't think there are many Liverpool fans that will not know of the game I'm talking about. The funny thing about both Clough's greatest ever game, and Vladi's, is that both were games in which Liverpool came back from 3-0 down to get a draw. Vladi's was of course the 2005 Champions League final.
In his last ever game for the club, Vladi played a huge role in the greatest comeback in Champions League history as he scored the second goal in those six crazy minutes. I don't think I'm the only one that screamed at him for being stupid enough to think he could beat the giant Dida from that kind of range, but when Milan Baros ran across the goal and blocked Dida's line of vision, allowing Smicer's low shot to creep under the keeper's desperate dive and nestle beautifully in the bottom corner, he went from villain to instant hero for me and everyone else that ever doubted him.
Of course, his contribution didn't end there. With his last ever kick of a football as a Liverpool player, Vladi stepped forward and calmly slotted in the penalty to give Liverpool a 3-2 lead in the shootout. We all know what happened next, Jerzy Dudek saved a shot from Andrey Shevchenko to seal a famous victory and bring Big Ears home for the fifth time.
While I know many people will disagree with both of these and suggest other possibilities, I felt it was important to remind people that not every great moment in Liverpool history has been delivered to us by a great player, sometimes it's the unlikely ones that become heroes.
Arguably the biggest mistake of the ill-fated era in charge of Liverpool by Graeme Souness was his decision to sell Peter Beardsley to Everton. Beardsley had been the man who Kenny Dalglish brought to Liverpool to replace the position he had himself vacated 12 months previously when he announced his retirement.
That says a lot about Beardsley's talent, that the great one rated him highly enough to pick him as his successor, and to be fair to Beardsley, he did a fantastic job at filling that role. Beardsley played a big role in bringing two titles to Liverpool, as well as an FA Cup.
Whether partnering Rush or Aldridge, or playing on the right wing when needed, Beardsley was the playmaker of the great Liverpool team of the late 80's. While Aldridge, Rush and Barnes got most of the plaudits, year in and year out Beardsley was Liverpool's most consistent player. He scored goals, he created goals and he gave defenders nightmares with his unpredictable play.
He was only 30 when Souness decided to sell him, and would go on to be an excellent top-level player for another six seasons with Everton and Newcastle. There are many fans, myself among them, that feel Liverpool may not have collapsed so badly under Souness had Beardsley not been sold. With his value to the team so highly regarded, I feel Beardsley deserves mention as an all-time great Red.
"If you stop Steve McManaman, you stop Liverpool from playing". Perhaps the wisest thing Bryan Robson has ever uttered during the failure known as his managerial career. Such was McManaman's importance to Liverpool during the mid to late 90s that, despite the presence of top players such as Fowler, Barnes, Redknapp and others, Liverpool was effectively a one man team.
Playing in the "free role" which Roy Evans had granted him, McManaman was arguably the best player in England for a number of years and was the talisman of a Liverpool's nearly-men of that era.
Blessed with the ability to beat players with ease, Shaggy was a hugely exciting player who inspired confidence in the fans that he could turn a game on its head with just one moment of magic. When he left the club to bring his considerable talents to Real Madrid on a Bosman free transfer in the summer of 1999, it was a hammer blow to Liverpool, one the club took a number of years to overcome.
It could be said that he became an even better player when he went to Real and reinvented himself as a central midfielder who played a huge role in Real's 2000 Champions League success, and would go on to repeat the feat in 2002 when the Galactico era was in full effect.
One of my all-time favourite players, Stevie Mac finds himself at fourth on my list despite not having worn the No. 7 for the vast majority of his Liverpool career.
Liverpool's greatest ever servant and a man who would be second on this list had he spent more of his career wearing the No. 7 shirt. Instead Callaghan wore a plethora of numbers during his incredible 18-year career in the Liverpool first team squad, during which time he made an incredible 856 first team appearance, a club record which is unlikely to ever be broken.
That, for me, is the most impressive appearance record in English football history. While United fans will jump up and down to tell you that Ryan Giggs' record is more impressive, Giggs is in his 21st season and plays in a far less physical era. He also plays in an era when there are more games for players to pick up appearances. Callaghan played when football was still a contact sport, when a tackle from behind was fine as long as you appeared to at least make an effort to get the ball.
Callaghan was voted No. 15 in the 100 Players Who Shook The Kop poll taken in the summer of 2006, and in my opinion that makes him the most underrated and under appreciated player in club history. If asked to name an all-time great Liverpool 11, he would be one of the first names on my team-sheet and would keep out a number of players who were ranked higher on that list.
I think he's without question the greatest player to ever roam the right wing for Liverpool and probably one of the five or six best to ever play for the club.
Truly a great, the ironman of Liverpool deserves recognition and I give it to him by placing him third of my list of the greatest players to wear the No. 7 jersey, and as I mentioned, he'd be ranked a spot higher had he worn the jersey for the majority of his career.
There is a myth about Kevin Keegan, and that is that he was a naturally talented player who Liverpool signed from Scunthorpe and immediately he became a star. That couldn't be further from the truth. If ever there was a manufactured footballer, it was Kevin Keegan.
Keegan was a very raw player with fantastic energy, enthusiasm and an unmatched willingness to learn when Bill Shankly signed him. It was on the Liverpool training ground that Shanks, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan built and molded the man who would go on to become a two-time player of the year. With their guidance, and Keegan's drive to be great, it was a match made in heaven and the results are indisputable.
Now I'm not saying that Keegan wouldn't have become a good player without the help of Shankly, Paisley and Fagan. When you have the intangibles he had, you are going to make it one way or another, but for me, he never would have reached the heights without the work that was put into him by the Bootroom brigade.
Keegan is one of Liverpool's all-time great players and would grace any team were he in his prime today. While he didn't have the talent of Kenny Dalglish, the man who replaced him at Liverpool, he worked harder on his game than the King ever had to and is deservedly mentioned whenever the No. 7 jersey and the previous greats who've worn it come up in conversation.
Was it ever in doubt? Dalglish ranks as not only the greatest player to ever wear the No. 7 jersey for Liverpool, but arguably the greatest player to ever play for the club. The only man who can challenge The King's claim to that status is the legendary Billy Liddell, a man who was so good that Liverpool was constantly known as Liddellpool during his time at the club. That Dalglish is rated as good, or perhaps better than the great man tells you, is all you need to know about him and his impact at Liverpool since his arrival from Celtic in 1977.
Dalglish was a magician on the pitch, blessed with touch, balance, control and unlimited skill. He replaced Kevin Keegan and not only matched his achievements at the club, but would go on to surpass him. A goal maker of unmatched reputation throughout Europe in the late 70's and through to the mid 80's, Dalglish was the key player on a Liverpool team which many consider to be not just the best in club history, but perhaps the greatest team to ever play the game.
When you're the best player on a team that good, you are truly something special. If Kenny Dalglish was entering the Premier League as a player in his prime right now, there would be not debate as to who the best player in the league is. Not even the staunchest United fan would consider mentioning Rooney.
Arsenal fans would forget about Nasri or Van Persie and not a peep would come out of Stamford Bridge about Frank Lampard. Dalglish was simply on a completely different level to all of those players. On their best day, and his worst day, they might be fit to lace his boots, otherwise they wouldn't even dare look the man in the eyes.
Now back at the club for his second spell as manager, The King will be hoping that he can relive the success he enjoyed as a player and the first time around as manager. To be fair, if he's even half as successful, he'll be the most successful manager since, well, himself!
All Hail The King, The Greatest No. 7 of all time.