Liverpool FC's 10 Most Disturbingly Bad English Premier League Era Defenders
Liverpool FC have long been blessed with a range of magnificent central defenders throughout their illustrious history, each bringing something to the table of the Liverpool team which helped propel the club up through the divisions or on towards cup glory by performing that most noble and admirable of footballing feats—stopping the opposition from scoring by any means possible.
Tommy Smith, Ron Yeats, Alan Hansen, Gary Gillespie, Emlyn Hughes—the names read like a who's who of defensive greats.
Some were—are, even—elegant, classy and comfortable on the ball. Some thrived most on the aerial duel and physical battles, while some read the game as if it was scripted and they knew exactly where to be and when to be there.
Others, however, have not quite been of that standard.
Some have been rather more of a disappointment.
To go one step further, some should never even have graced the Anfield pitch nor the red of Liverpool FC.
Here are the 10 most disappointing defenders to have played for Liverpool in recent years. The criteria for selection was pretty straightforward—to have played at least half a dozen competitive first-team games, to have been a defender since the inception of the Premier League and who have thoroughly failed to overwhelm the fans and the club in general, either because they had a respectable price tag upon arrival which they did not live up to or because they were just generally so damn bad at the art of defending.
Dishonourable Mention for Rigobert Song: Right- and Centre-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 38 (1999-2000)
I include Rigobert Song, the slightly mad Cameroonian defender, as an extra mention because I thought he was capable of so much better. Winner of a huge number of international caps with his country and a multiple World Cup veteran, the centre-back came to Liverpool from Italian outfit Salernitana and started off well, playing out of position at right-back.
Gerard Houllier, then Reds boss, stated how someone of Song's natural charisma would help the dressing room grow closer together just as much as his ability on the pitch would endear him to the Kop.
Chants of "We've only got one Song" were as ironic as they were regularly heard while Song played for Liverpool but he featured for only one campaign with any regularity as loss of form and African Nations duty interfered with his attempts to win a first-team spot.
He was sold to West Ham United with Daniel Sjolund coming to Liverpool in the same deal.
10. Bjorn Tore Kvarme: Right- and Centre-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 54 (1997-1999)
Let's be honest, Bjorn Tore Kvarme was pretty rubbish. Signed by Roy Evans from Rosenborg, Kvarme was brought in to add a bit of balance to Liverpool's defence with his ability to play on the right side of centre or even at right full-back, with the likes of Babb and Ruddock already doing similar central roles but being predominantly left-footed.
Kvarme started off in favour though he was ineligible for European competitions as he was cup-tied, but soon fell out of favour at the beginning of his first full season as a series of mistakes found him out.
He played briefly as part of a three-man defence, but never recaptured the form which saw him targeted by Evans in the first place.
9. Gabriel Paletta: Centre-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 8 (2006-2007)
When Gabriel Paletta arrived from Boca Juniors, Liverpool fans were led to believe this was a domineering and powerful defender bound for the top.
What Kopites actually saw was a lumbering and graceless monster of a man with little positional sense and a marked lack of pace.
Paletta was, to give him his due, formidable in the air—unfortunately even the smallest movement from forwards on the ground was usually enough to get away from him though, and Paletta lasted just a single season in England before being shipped back to Argentina.
8. Abel Xavier: Right-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 21 (2002-2003)
It is hard not to rank Abel Xavier higher merely on account of his disastrously bad hair.
However, Abel lets his football do the talking and that is enough to rank him at No. 8.
A full-back who was signed from Everton by Gerard Houllier, Xavier scored on his Liverpool debut and initially looked like he could be a shrewd signing as he delivered some steady performances on the right.
However, the saying of "form is temporary, class is permanent" can work both ways and Xavier was soon back to his usual standard. He was dropped from the Liverpool first team before being loaned out and told not to return to the club.
7. Jan Kromkamp: Right-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 18 (2006)
Even some time before he signed for Liverpool, Yossi Benayoun was so sure that Jan Kromkamp was not of the required standard at Liverpool that he tried to rip the Dutch full-back's shirt right off his back.
Kromkamp only played for Liverpool for a few months, signing in the January of 2006 and moving on later that year in the summer transfer window, but in that time he managed to pick up an FA Cup winners medal when he appeared as a substitute in the penalty shootout win over West Ham.
Jan's best game for the Reds probably came against Newcastle when he was deployed as a wing-back ahead of a three-man defence, where his glaring weaknesses in stopping opposition wingers getting crosses in and a sublime lack of pace was somewhat hidden by the extra cover behind him.
He was a fair crosser of the ball but just half a season and 18 games were enough to show that Kromkamp was another in a long line of full-backs who were not up to scratch and he was quickly moved on.
6. Julian Dicks: Left-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 28 (1993-1994)
Seemingly, Graeme Souness wanted to add some "steel" to Liverpool's defence when he signed West Ham left-back Julian Dicks.
What he actually got was an unfit, overweight, cumbersome so-called "hard man" who loved to clatter into opposition wingers whenever he got the chance, frequently gave the ball away and offered next to nothing in either defence or attack.
Fittingly, this was the last transfer of Souness' reign and one which just about summed up the all-around disappointing era.
Dick's one big contribution while at Anfield was that he netted the last goal by a Liverpool player in front of the standing Kop.
5. Torben Piechnik: Centre-Back
Liverpool Appearances: 24 (1992-1994)
Ahh, Torben Piechnik.
Frequently thrown into the hat as one of "worst ever transfers" of Liverpool.
In fairness to both him and the man who bought him, Souness again, he did have some recent pedigree—he was part of the Denmark squad which had just won Euro '92 and played in the final after an injury to one of the Dane's first-choice defenders.
However, he was relatively inexperienced at the top level and never got to grips with the newly formed Premier League, being given the runaround by former Red Dean Saunders on his debut and never really recovering from that.
Roy Evans released Piechnik on a free transfer when he took over as boss.
Photo from ESPN.
4. Philipp Degen: Right-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 13 (2008-2011)
Philipp Degen = injured.
Signed on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund, Switzerland regular Philipp Degen was meant to add pace and presence on the right side of Liverpool's defence as Rafa Benitez sought to add some attacking intent to his wide areas.
All he added with Degen was an overly large wage to the weekly bill and a lot of extra work for Victor Salinas, Matt Konopinsky and Rob Price.
One season full of injury was followed by one of disappointment, which was finally followed by a season-long loan spell and a free transfer.
Pretty disastrous all around given that this "free transfer" cost Liverpool about £6.25 million—or £480,000 per game.
3. Andrea Dossena: Left-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 31 (2008-2010)
John Arne Riise's departure and the subsequent arrival of replacement Dossena was meant to herald a new, attack-minded defence at Liverpool.
Fair to say it didn't quite work out that way.
Dossena showed pace and some strength, and his crossing ability was good at times, but his defensive awareness was beyond poor and he was frequently bested in one-on-one duels both aerially and on the ground.
Used to playing as a wing-back with Udinese with fewer defensive responsibilities and the extra cover behind him, as well as a notably slower tempo of football, Dossena never got to grips with Liverpool's way of playing and, despite briefly emerging as an option on the left side of midfield, was unsurprisingly sold at a loss 18 months after his arrival.
2. Christian Ziege: Left-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 32 (2000-2001)
Long before Andrea Dossena and even John Arne Riise came onto the Anfield scene, Liverpool thought they had solved their left-back problems by capturing the signature of German full-back Christian Ziege.
Having excelled for Bayern Munich, Middlesbrough and the German national team, it seemed that Ziege should fit in excellently with an adventurous and young Liverpool outfit who were entering the pinnacle of Gerard Houllier's tenure as manager.
Ziege cost around £6 million to prise from the Teesiders and he started off as Liverpool's first-choice left-back.
However, in a season where Liverpool played in excess of 60 matches, Ziege featured in only half of them after a terrible slump in form, reported bad attitude problems and the initial promise of Gregory Vignal all halted his easy ride in the first team.
Ziege played in the first of Liverpool's five trophy wins in 2001, the League Cup final, where he netted a penalty in the shootout, but his Liverpool career was far from the success-laden brilliance everyone had hoped for and he left after just one year to join Spurs.
1. Paul Konchesky: Left-Back
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Liverpool Appearances: 18 (2010-2011)
Surely, by any criteria and to any mind, Paul Konchesky has to rank as one of the worst defenders to ever pull on the red jersey.
Given that the appointment as manager of Roy Hodgson should never have been allowed to happen, it was perhaps inevitable that one of his signings would follow suit.
Konchesky was signed from Fulham for around £5 million, plus two promising youth players in Alex Kacaniklic and Lauri Dalla Valle.
Slow on the ball, used to defending much deeper than his new Liverpool teammates and seemingly unable to halt any kind of run or cross from an opponent, Konchesky never grew into his Liverpool shirt which was too big for him from the outset and lasted only five months at the club before being shipped out on loan to Nottingham Forest in the Championship.
This summer he was moved on permanently to another Championship side in Leicester City.
Even away from the pitch Konchesky had serious problems with a certain social network incident and he has to go down as the worst, and most disappointing for so many reasons, defender to ever play for Liverpool since the Premier League began.