Liverpool FC: 25 Most Popular Players in Club History

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterOctober 6, 2011

Liverpool FC: 25 Most Popular Players in Club History

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    For Liverpool fans, "You'll Never Walk Alone" is more than just a saying, an anthem and a sentence at the top of the club's crest.

    It's a guide to how they treat their players.

    Excel at Anfield, and you'll become a hero. Play poorly, well, not so much.

    Either way, as long as you're wearing the red and white colors, you'll never walk alone.

    The club's admiration of its best players goes even deeper. Those players become legends, both while they're living and after their deaths.

    They're looked up to. They're venerated. They serve as the measuring stick of current and future greatness.

    We hope that's what this list is. It's a list of the 25 most popular players in Liverpool FC history, but it's also partially a list of the club's greatest players.

    That's just the nature of popularity at Anfield.

    Some of the names on this list are current players, but most are long retired. All of them are household names in the city of Liverpool.

Liverpool's Most Popular: 25-21

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    25. Steve McManaman

    American fans know Steve McManaman as a television commentator. They might not realize he had a brilliant career with Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

    McManaman made 274 league appearances for Liverpool as a midfielder and playmaker from 1991-99, scoring 47 goals. Things turned sour toward the end of his Anfield career due to his involvement in "lad culture" and a bitter contract dispute.

    But as the saying goes, time heals all wounds. These days, it's generally accepted that McManaman and Robbie Fowler (more on him later) helped carry Liverpool in the 1990s.

    24. Luis Garcia

    23. Ian St. John

    22. Steve Heighway

    21. Phil Neal

Liverpool's Most Popular: 20-16

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    20. Peter Beardsley

    19. Ian Callaghan

    18. Jan Molby

    17. David Fairclough

    16. Bruce Grobbelaar

    Incredibly, when Liverpool found goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, he was a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League. He came to Anfield in 1981 as the club's reserve keeper, but after an injury to Ray Clemence worked his way into the starting XI in his first season.

    Grobbelaar's early Liverpool career had its share of errors, but he quickly earned the fans' love and respect with a string of great performances.

    His performance in the 1984 European Cup final is legendary. Liverpool was tied 1-1 with Roma after extra time. Before one of Roma's penalties in the shootout, Grobbelaar famously bit the net as if eating spaghetti.

    Bruno Conti missed the ensuing kick. Later, he psyched out Francesco Graziani by wobbling his legs in feigned terror.

    Liverpool went on to win and Grobbelaar went on to hold a legendary place in the hearts of fans.

Liverpool's Most Popular: 15-11

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    15. Emlyn Hughes

    14. Alan Hansen

    13. Michael Owen

    Yes, yes, yes. We know what you're saying. HE PLAYS FOR &%!@% MANCHESTER UNITED NOW!?!?!?! HOW CAN YOU RANK HIM THIS HIGH?!?!?!?! Yes, yes, yes. We know. We know. We know.

    But, Michael Owen was IT for a while in world football. When he scored that goal against Argentina as a teenager in the 1998 World Cup, he let the rest of the world know what the Kop already knew: He was world class.

    Sure, he was, and still is, selfish as a player, and Liverpool fans would say he's selfish as a person on account of his current gig with Manchester United. But he scored some amazing goals and helped Liverpool win games it shouldn't have.

    The 2001 FA Cup final comes to mind.

    And it's hard to beat 158 goals in 297 appearances.

    12. Roger Hunt

    11. Ray Clemence

10. Graeme Souness

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    Great player, terrible manager.

    The Times, which ranks Graeme Souness No. 4 on its list of Liverpool's all-time greats, had this to say.

    "You could imagine him as a low-rent James Bond, an elegant brute in the Daniel Craig fashion, with a seam of sadism running through him. God, he was a joy to watch. How he could pass - easily as well as Glenn Hoddle. But unlike Hoddle, Souness didn't need a minder. If you messed with him, you'd be sorry. Sometimes you didn't even need to mess with him. Yet the greatest part of his game is the stuff that went unnoticed. Most of his passes were 10 yards or less and, after releasing the ball, he'd invariably move into space to receive it back. The complete package. The finest of midfield players."

    Souness made 349 appearances for Liverpool from 1978-84, scoring 38 league goals.

    But then there was the managerial spell. Which was horrible.

    As The Times does, you could argue that Souness did more to knock Liverpool off its perch as England's top team than Sir Alex Ferguson ever did.

    That's why he's not higher on this list.

9. Kevin Keegan

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    Before he was famous for melting down in front of a live television audience, Kevin Keegan had another life as a damned fine football player.

    Keegan scored 12 minutes into his Liverpool debut in 1971. Six years and 323 appearances later, he had scored 100 goals and won the hearts of Liverpool fans everywhere.

    Keegan excited the Kop with his endless energy before leaving for Hamburg SV in 1977.

    His replacement? Kenny Dalglish.

8. Billy Liddell

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    Billy Liddell comes from the old school.

    He played football when the balls still looked like volleyballs.

    In the club's barren years of the 1950s, people called the club Liddellpool because of Billy Liddell's popularity. He provided hope when the product on the field inspired none.

    During a career that lasted from 1939-61, he scored 228 times in 534 appearances.

7. Jamie Carragher

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    Jamie Carragher never won the FA Cup with two late dazzling goals like Michael Owen.

    He doesn't score from long distance and inspire the team to greatness like Steven Gerrard.

    But no one ever, ever questions his commitment to the cause.

    As The Times writes:

    Limited as a player but with an emotional fire that transcends ability, he has become the modern embodiment of the Liverpool Way.

    No higher praise.

    None, indeed.

6. Tommy Smith

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    Just look at that picture, eh?

    The Anfield Iron.

    Now that's a footballer.

    Much like Jamie Carragher, Tommy Smith embodied what it means to play for Liverpool.

    Like Carragher, the essence of Scouse distilled and poured into a Liverpool shirt. What's not to like? Scored the second, crucial goal against Borussia Mönchengladbach that magnificent night in Rome in 1977.

5. Robbie Fowler

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    One word: God.

    That's what Liverpool fans called Robbie Fowler.

    We're pretty sure God never simulated the act of snorting cocaine from the line forming the penalty box.

    But Our Lord also never scored 183 goals in 369 appearances, never had a magic touch in front of goal, and never became a working-class hero to millions of Scousers.

    So I guess we'll call it even.

4. Ian Rush

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    He didn't ever look the least bit athletic or intimidating, but Ian Rush formed a dream partnership with Kenny Dalglish in the Liverpool front line during the glory years of the 1980s.

    Rush made 660 appearances for the club and scored 346 goals. His most famous performance came in a 5-0 victory against Everton in 1982, when he scored four times at Goodison Park.

    Known for his high football IQ and ability to prowl the box, the Welshman retired as the club's all-time leading goalscorer.

    He'll probably never be surpassed.

3. John Barnes

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    John Barnes had a way of exciting the Kop with his powerful runs and brilliant goals.

    He was so good, and his play was so exciting, that The Times wrote this in its ranking of the top Liverpool players of all time.

    Barnes on the rampage was one of the most breathtaking sights in the game. Mesmerising ball control was combined with a directness rare in wingers. His balance almost defied belief, with hulking defenders bouncing off those monumental thighs. The football the Barnes-led side played in 1987 and 1988 hit peaks as high as any Liverpool team have reached.

    Barnes was named the Football Writers Association's Footballer of the Year twice and also won the PFA Player of the Year award.

    He was and still remains a fan favorite.

2. Steven Gerrard

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    Steven Gerrard has the credentials as a world-class player.

    In 2009, French legend Zinedine Zidane said he considers Gerrard the world's best.

    Domestically, he has been named player of the year in some form four times, and he has made the PFA Team of the Year seven times.

    He has also been included in the top 10 of the Ballon d'Or, which is the award for Europe's best player, three times, finishing third in 2005. He's made the top 10 of the FIFA World Player of the Year four times.

    Gerrard took over as Liverpool's captain in 2003 and led the Reds back to the European title in 2005. His honors also include two FA Cups, two League Cups, one UEFA Cup and two UEFA Super Cups.

    More importantly, he placed second in a 2006 fan poll of players who had the biggest impact on Liverpool.

    Gerrard has never played for another club and probably never will (unless he winds up in MLS as a washed-up 40-year-old in 2020). More than any other player, he is the face of the modern club.

1. Kenny Dalglish

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    King Kenny is the current manager of Liverpool, but even youngsters know he's also the club's all-time best player.

    And he's easily its most popular.

    The Scottish striker led Liverpool to six First Division titles (including three in a row from 1982-84), one FA Cup, five Charity Shields and a staggering three European Cups.

    He was voted PFA Player of the Year for the 1982-83 season, when he scored 18 goals and Liverpool successfully defended its league title.

    From 1977-90, he appeared 515 times for Liverpool and scored 172 goals.

    Off the pitch, he earned popularity for his actions after the Hillsborough disaster when he attended several funerals.

    As The Times wrote in its ranking of the 50 greatest Liverpool players, Dalglish is one of the "towering figures" in Liverpool's history along with legendary manager Bill Shankly.

    There should be two lists. One for Dalglish, the other for the rest. He is that rare entity, a man with no peers among Liverpool players. So where does he rank on a wider scale? In football history? Well, there's Maradona, who is another in a category of one. After Maradona comes a group - Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer. In global terms, Dalglish is in the rank below. Briefly - between the decline of Cruyff and the emergence of Maradona - the Scot was the best player in the world. It wasn't just his own individual ability, but he had that knack of improving the performance of all his team-mates. There was no selfish streak in the man, unlike some lesser, self-centred, so-called greats.

    Couldn't have put it any better myself.

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