Liverpool FC: Picking an All-Time Best XI
Picking an all-time Starting XI for Liverpool isn't easy. With so many good players so close to one another in skill, one list could be completely different from another.
Was Sami Hyppiä a better center back than Jamie Carragher? Would Steven Gerrard even make the first team? Where does Billy Liddell, a man who never played the modern game, rank among Anfield's greats? If you had choose only one keeper for a must-win cup match, would it be Pepe Reina or Ray Clemence?
With the recent infusion of talent into the team fueled by John Henry's millions, I began wondering who would make my all-time Liverpool side.
The Reds are currently in sixth and aiming for a top-four finish, but if they were able to start these 11 men, the trophy would already be in the bag.
Ray Clemence, GK
Liverpool is clearly spoiled for choice when you consider the legendary keepers who have tended their nets.
Pepe Reina would be a no-brainer for most teams in this position, while Bruce Grobbleaar would put no XI to shame. Both men were intimidating forces in goal for the Reds, narrowly missing getting the starting spot here.
A nose ahead of those two lies Ray Clemence, arguably one of the best keepers of all time. In a Liverpool career that spanned from 1967 to 1981, Clemence helped his squad to five Charity Shields, five First Division titles, a League Cup, an F.A, Cup, and an European Super Cup, not to mention two UEFA Cups and three European Cups.
While Grobbleaar's trophy array looks fairly similar, he did not have the same success as Clemence on the European stage, winning only one Champion's League Cup to Clemence's three. Reina, though unquestionably valuable in goal, has yet to win European football's top prize.
In 665 appearances for the the club, Clemence posted 335 clean sheets, highlighted by a spectacular 1978-79 season in which he only conceded only 16 goals. That mark that stood until the 2004-05 season when Chelsea allowed only 15.
Clemence retired from football in 1988 as one of the worlds most decorated keepers. Few would argue his place here among Liverpool luminaries.
Phil Neal, LB
Few players, let alone defenders, can boast the sort of success Phil Neal had in his 11 year Liverpool career. His 22 medals are only eclipsed by Manchester United's Ryan Giggs, and he is by far the Reds' most decorated man ever.
In 445 appearances for the club, Neal won eight league titles, five Charity Shields, four League Cups, four European Cups, a UEFA Cup and a European Super Cup. He remains the only LFC player to have appeared in all five European finals.
From his traditional right-back position, Neal slotted in 41 goals, perhaps none bigger than his clinching penalty in the 1977 Champion's League final.
Neal played in 417 consecutive games for the Reds, a Liverpool record that still stands today. His steadfastness along with his industry makes him a lock for the all-time Starting X1.
Alan Hansen, CB
Liverpool has been blessed over the years with unbelievable players at center back, and Alan Hansen is undoubtedly among them.
A 13 year veteran from 1977-1991, Hansen played a part in one of the best defenses ever assembled in eight League titles, three European Cups, three League Cups, two F.A Cups and six Charity Shields.
Few defenseman have been so stalwart at the back, but despite his commitment to defense he still managed to score eight times.
Along with his silverware and skills, Hansen makes this list for inspired leadership as well. He was earned the captaincy in 1986 when Liverpool became then only the third team to achieve the English League/F.A Cup double.
Jamie Carragher, CB
In a close match-up with teammate Sami Hyppiä, Jamie Carragher wins the starting spot based on sheer devotion to the red shirt. Since 1990, Carragher has only known Liverpool's colors, be it in their youth system or first team.
His championship record is almost identical with Hyppiä's, and despite being the shorter man in the air he made up for it with quick, decisive feet. Born and bred in Merseyside, Carragher still plays for the Anfield side since making the first team in 1996. He is second only to Ian Callaghan in LFC appearances with 679.
Through his 15 year career so far, Carragher helped Liverpool win the Champion's League in 2005 along with F.A and Carling Cups in 2001. He has 10 medals overall and owns the British record for European appearances.
Few would object to the much-beloved Carragher earning a place on this list.
Steve Nicol, RB
An Irvine, Scotland native, Steve Nicol soundly rounds out the all-time Starting XI defense.
A 13 year Liverpool veteran, Nicol was part of the triumphant LFC sides of the 80's, winning five League titles, three F.A. Cups, four Charity Shields and the 1984 European Cup. In 468 appearances for the club, Nicol scored 46 goals.
Nicol was the spiritual successor to Phil Neal on the defensive flanks, and while he didn't earn as many medals, his work in defense kept the Reds relevant all the way through 80's.
The man they called Chico could play on either side of pitch, proving as effective a left back as he was on the right. This versatility was in part what won him the title of Footballer of the Year in 1989 by the Football Writers' Association.
Billy Liddell, RW
While few who are alive today can claim to have seen him play, Billy Liddell remains one of the most influential Reds in history.
In a footballing career that began just as World War II broke out, Liddell signed his first contract with Liverpool in 1938 for a weekly wage of £3. With competitive football suspended during the war, Liddell made his official debut for the Reds in 1946.
Over the course of 17 years, Liddell appeared 534 times for LFC, scoring 228 goals. He is fourth on the Liverpool career goal-scorer list and is one of only four Reds to score more than 200 goals. Despite his effectiveness around the net, Liddell only won one league title and an F.A. Cup. He died relatively recently in July of 2001.
Though it is difficult to imagine how Liddell would have fared in the modern game, there remains little dissent about his placement in the pantheon of Liverpool greats. His muscular build, pace, and positional versatility (he could play virtually any attacking position) would be an asset to any team in any era, so he makes this list.
Steven Gerrard, CM
One of the most famous Scousers ever to don Liverpool red, it is hard to imagine an all-time LFC midfield without the imposing figure of Steven Gerrard.
One of England's finest footballers and a product of the heralded Golden Generation, Stevie G has been nominated numerous times for the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year, finishing as high as third in 2005 for the Gold Ball.
For his club, Gerrard has was a part of that fantastic 2000-01 side which won both the Carling and F.A Cup, along with a runner-up League finish and the UEFA Cup. In 2005 he was instrumental in propelling Liverpool to a Champions League title, scoring 13 goals.
In total, Gerrard has scored 141 goals in 561 appearances, and has worn the captain's band almost as often as he has not. His game has changed as he's aged from an adventurous attacker to a more cautious controller of play, but it hasn't diminished his impact on the game.
Still in search of his first League title with Liverpool, Gerrard is without a doubt a Liverpool Icon and more than deserves a spot on this team.
Graeme Souness, CM
Just like Stevie G, Graeme Souness is an institution in the Liverpool midfield and a must for any all-time team.
In just 359 total appearances for Liverpool from 1977-1984, Souness scored only 55 goals, but won five League titles, three European Cups and four Carling Cups in the process.
Billed as a replacement for iron-man Ian Callaghan, Souness quickly made a name for himself with a stunning volley to help beat hated Manchester United 3-1 in his first year.
Known more for his distribution, Souness had remarkable vision and a reliable touch. Although he didn't make much of a manager, loyal fans will always remember him fondly for his imaginative play on the field.
John Barnes, LW
One of the greatest wingers to play for the Reds, John Barnes elegant maneuverability and tireless work rate on the outside deserve all the accolades they get.
The Jamaican-born footballer appeared in 407 games for Liverpool, scoring 108 goals. His best season by far took place in 1989-90, where the winger slotted in 28 total for LFC.
Although he never won a European Championship, Barnes still finished his career with a respectable amount of medals. Over his 11 year stint with Liverpool, Digger earned a pair of League titles, two F.A Cups, three Charity Shields and a League Cup.
While his impact on Liverpool's attack was self-evident, less visible was his influence on the acceptance of black footballers in England. He was one of the first high-profile black players to catch the nation's eye, and his perseverance helped pave the way for more popular black stars in the Premiership.
Kenny Dalglish, ST
The man they call King more than deserves his royal moniker, for few strikers competed at such a high level as Kenny Dalglish. He is an absolute must for any all-time XI.
Over his stunning 13 year career as a Liverpool fixture, Dalglish appeared in 515 games and scored 172 goals, good enough for sixth among Anfield giants.
Of the major team trophies, Dalglish helped capture six league titles, four League Cups, three European Cups, and five Charity Shields. His cerebral knowledge of the game not only helped his distribution, but perfectly set the Scot up to manage Liverpool twice in years to come.
He still is Liverpool's head man today.
Ian Rush, ST
In a tight battle for starting striker with fellow great Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush gets my nod.
The Welshman appeared 660 times for Liverpool, scoring an incredible 346 goals, the most of any Liverpool player ever. Another member of the Reds' dominant 80's sides, Rush secured the Division One title five times, won three F.A. Cups and five League Cups while topping Europe in 1984.
What sets him apart from Fowler is not only the goals he scored, but his sheer will to score them. There have been few players more focused on making an impact and succeeding than Rushie, which puts him (however slightly) ahead of other LFC strikers.
Seeing Rush in a tandem with King Kenny was fearsome then, and probably would still be today.
So, who's in your XI?