The end of this season marked the 20 year anniversary of the Premier League in England and therefore marked 20 years for Liverpool in this league. Here are my opinion of the top 20 players during that time.
20) Javier Mascherano: 139 Appearances, 2 Goals
Javier didn't win any medals during his time here and did not leave the club in the most dignified of manners but I believe it is hard to say that this is his fault. He was part of the 'best midfield in the world' during the season we came second in the league with his incredible work rate and reading of the game allowing the rest of the team to do what they want at times. In my opinion probably the best defensive midfielder of the 21st century and would be higher up in the list if his move to Barcelona was not such a messy affair.
19) Rob Jones: 185 Apperances, 0 Goals
One of the calmest full backs the premiership has seen with his reading of the game connected with determined tackling prowess ensuring he is well remembered despite his short career. Signed by Souness from Crewe Alexander he had an England cap by the end of his first season and would of got many more if injury hadn't plagued his playing time. Unfortunately in 1999 at the age of 28 he had to call it a day on football, but his quality is the most remembered part in Liverpool's mid 90s defence.
18) Martin Skrtel: Apperances 164, 7 Goals
I decided to pick between Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel for this post and the thing that tipped it for the big Slovak is that despite Agger's obvious class on the ball Skrtel has improved massively in the last 18 months and is now one of the best defensive players in the world. During Hodgson's time at the club his form massively deteriorated but the way he bounced back has led to me loving him even more. Furthermore with Carragher's involvement recently becoming less and less he has became the experienced head at the back moulding himself into the perfect defender. Hopefully going to be our strong man at the back for a good few years.
17) Steve Finnan: 217 Appearances, 1 Goal
The unsung hero in the successful early days of Rafa's reign. His first few seasons were disrupted by injury but as time went on he settled as one of the first names on the team sheet being an ever present in the league during the 2005/06 season. He won a Champions League and Fa Cup medal during his time here and as well as his assured defensive capabilities he is still remembered as one of the best crossers of a ball Liverpool have had in recent years.
16) Lucas Leiva: 183 Apperances, 6 Goals
It shows the fickle nature of a football fan when if you ask them if they had faith in Lucas most will say yes based on his recent performances. It also shows the stubbornness of football fans when many say they still do no rate him. I have always believed that Lucas had class when passing the ball because even when he was younger and passing the ball sideways and backwards he would never lose it. This proved he has that classic Brazil mentality that if you have the ball the opposition can not score, something I have always been a believer of and it is better to be calm than frantic. As he has matured and grown in stature he has now became one of the best holding midfielders in Europe and his importance has been shown since he has been injured and our midfield has looked in-organised on countless occasions. A future captain of Brazil and possibly of Liverpool when Stevie hangs up his boots.
15) Jamie Redknapp: 308 Appearances, 46 Goals
Jamie Redknapp may now be known as the pretty boy of Sky Sports news but 15 years ago he was the man who made us tick in the middle of the park. Despite injuries heavily faltering his career Harry's son his determination and influence led to him being our official captain for 3 years as he was one of the most experienced players in a squad that included many up and coming stars. He was the main man on all of our set pieces for around 5 years coming up with countless assists and a few decent goals as well showing you can have sporting pedigree and good looks at the same time.
14) Dirk Kuyt: 286 Appearances, 71 Goals
Throughout his time at the club the Dutchman was often in the centre of arguments between fans as they discussed whether his tremendous work rate made up for the lack of technical ability in some areas. But I am of the belief that it was this passion for the game he had that made him the complete 'big game player' for Liverpool always popping up with an important goal whether he started the game or came of the bench. In both finals that he played in during his time at the club he scored in, always had the nerve to step up for important penalties and his hat trick against United in 2011 will always live long in the memory. So even though he never carried his goal scoring record from Holland to England (who does?) he'll always be a legend to me.
13) Pepe Reina: 354 Appearances, 159 Clean Sheets
The only goalkeeper I have included on my list and one that many would be expecting to be higher up it. Just before any one says anything I love Pepe and think he is a perfect player for Liverpool with a lot of passion for football and if was in any other generation would be a massive star for his country as well, but last seasons poor performances by him made a big difference to where we finished up. I am of the belief that after his superb first two seasons at the club Reina's, mistakes have became more and more regular with recently him never being able to make a save when in a one on one situation. However his distribution, organisation and shot stopping from long distance have ensure that we do have some quality between the sticks, something we have always struggled with in the last 20 years, and for that reason he is my no13.
12) Danny Murphy: 246 Appearances, 44 Goals
A firm favourite amongst the Kopites who was dreadfully unlucky during his time at Liverpool that he never got a decent run in in his proffered central play making role. He was often shifted onto the wing to do a job but his quality still shone through which is shown in the amount of assists he has for the club during his 6 seasons here. Since leaving the club, especially at Fulham, it has been shown how calm he is on the ball and it is a shame he didn't always have the opportunity at Liverpool in the centre but his winning goals against United in particular will always be fondly remembered by Liverpool fans.
11) John Arne Riise: 338 Appearances, 30 Goals
'Ooooo Ahhh I wanna know...how you scored that goal' were the words that were always warmly sang from the stands after John smashed in one of his rockets for the reds. A player filled with exceptional stamina and a stunning left foot he was a massive cult hero to many supporters a lot down to the importance of the goals he always seemed to score. Whether on the left wing or in his defensive left back position he was always a danger to the opposition because of his crosses and shooting, scoring a few against Chelsea and United during his time here. His career will unfortunately be summed up by his own goal in the Champions League Semi-Final against Chelsea by the younger fan, but hopefully the more wise supporter will see how his rampaging runs was a massive weapon for Liverpool for 7 years.
10) Dietmar Hamann: 280 Appearances, 11 Goals
A player who was not always seen as overly important to the Liverpool team but oozed class in the way he ran the game. A footballing mind I have not seen bettered in a Liverpool shirt which completely made up for his lack of physical domination in the position he held. Without his influence in the midfield during the early 21st century it is hard to say other mid-fielders would have had their chance to get the headlines as the goal scorers. This hypothesis is completely proved by the influence he made during the 2005 Champions League final. Benitez chose not to start him and before he came on during half time Kaka looked like the greatest player ever lived finding passes through our midfield that simply shouldn't of been possible, passes that Didi cut out. An adopted German in the English game, which doesn't happen very often, who will always be welcome at Liverpool.
9) Steve McManaman: 364 Appearances, 66 Goals
The long haired wizard was arguably Liverpool's main man during the 90s being one of the highlights of what was otherwise a fairly bare time when it came to trophies. Stupendous solo goals, defence splitting passes and close control in the tightest of situations were his main strengths becoming one of those rare plays you watch to play because he can do things others can not. Furthermore he is one of the only players you can think of who has then went on to be more successful away from Liverpool, at Real Madrid, showing his flair was not over rated at an under achieving club.
8) Luis Suarez: 52 Appearances, 21 Goals
Some people would argue no player should be this high after only 18 months at the club, however some would argue he should be higher due to his sheer class. The most exciting thing I have seen at Anfield since I have been going the match most weeks and I believe along with the likes of Lionel Messi and Frank Ribery he is one of the best dribblers of a ball in World Football at the moment. All his controversy has made many in English football hate him now and I am one who is of the opinion that he is being blamed personally for a lot of things wrong in football when he is not all bad. I seriously hope he stays at the club for years to come, because with a striker like him I believe anything is possible.
7) Xabi Alonso: 210 Appearances, 19 Goals
One of the best readers of the game world football has seen in recent years who was utter class in the way he played and presented himself in the media. His first season at the club shown his quality but over time many fans, and more importantly the manager, seemed to forget how important the Spaniard was to the club which led to the start of the end for his career at the club. In 2008 Benitez virtually forced Alonso out of the club in favour of getting the in form Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, something I never forgave the then manager for as we were building the best team Liverpool had seen for years until that moment. From that point Alonso felt unloved at the club he obviously cared about so much, something that he still talks about today despite having left, and he was sold to Real Madrid a year later for around 3 times the amount we bought him for. Literally every Liverpool supporter respected his decision because they knew why it had happened, what a dignified man he was and that he will always be respected because of the equalising goal that night in Istanbul.
6) Sami Hyypia: 460 Appearances, 35 Goals
When Gerard Houllier signed this little known Finnish defender from the Dutch side Willem II no one associated with the club will have foreseen how much of a success he would have became. Between signing for the club and the end of the 2000/01 season he had confirmed himself as one of the most complete defenders in the Premier League, with his sheer size added to his reading of the game making him a worth opposition to any striker. He was named as official captain in 2002 after having the armband for a lot of the time whilst Redknapp was injured but lost this post a year later to the emerging Steven Gerrard, but this did not belittle the fact he was a massive leader on and off the pitch. After first forming a respectable partnership with Stephan Henchoz the arrival of Rafa Benitez saw Jamie Carragher being deployed week in week out as a central defender. This second partnership was widely acclaimed as the best in Europe during the 2004/05 season and was definitely down to how Hyypia moulded the rough Carragher into a world class partner in the centre of defence. Sami could also always be relied on to get a goal or two a season, especially with his head, with very important strikes against Juventus and Arsenal coming to mind. Always a gentleman with his human side coming out on his emotional last game in 2009 with the team parading him around on his shoulders as the Kop said goodbye. 10 trophies in 10 years at Anfield and one of my favourite ever players who I hope to see back at the club in the future as a coach, class act.
5) Fernando Torres: 142 Appearances, 81 Goals
Despite his image at the club now being in tatters due to his controversial move to Chelsea, El Nino is arguably the most complete striker Liverpool have had since the glory days of Ian Rush. Fastest player to ever score half a century of goals for Liverpool, most goals by a foreigner in their debut season in the premier league and now the most expensive player in British football; whatever you think of him now Torres is class. 33 goals in his first season completely set up what was a love affair with the Liverpool following and his brilliant partnership with Steven Gerrard further expanded his popularity. A scorer of fantastic goals as well as the simple tap ins he always gave the fans something to cheer about in his first few seasons before injuries began to tarnish his reputation. When Liverpool did sell him he was not in the best form of his career and I stand by the fact we were very lucky to get £50 million for him because he probably was not worth that but we did get the most we could out of a player who brought so much to a club who had wanted a player like him for years. You'll never walk alone Nando wherever you are in my eyes.
4) Michael Owen: 297 Appearances, 158 Goals
Another striker who's moves since leaving Liverpool has made him a traitor to some fans, but what he done to the team during times when we were barely average can not be forgotten. 23 goals in his first full season at the tender age of 18 made the boy wonder become one of the deadliest forwards not just in England but in World Football straight from his debut, largely helped by his performances for England in the World Cup. His class was well documented in 2001 because despite the fact we were not involved in the Champions League he still won the Ballon D'or and he is still the only Liverpool player to do so, showing the critics could not take it away from him despite his clubs lesser standard. Injuries heavily faltered his appearance tally during the later stages in his time here but a move away was inevitable in some ways as he had grown sick of the clubs failure year upon year. If only he would have give Rafa a chance things could have went very differently for Mr Owen, but how many would say no to the callings of Real Madrid? However I may have sympathy on the young Michael Owen who missed out on his Champions League medal, but only disgust is saved on the lad who chose United to become his next club when he was out of contract.
3) Robbie Fowler: 369 Appearances, 183 Goals
Out of all the forwards Liverpool have had acquainted with them since the beginning of the Premier League, Fowler is the man that lives most fondly in the heart of the Liverpool Supporters. The fourth highest goalscorer in the history of the premier league outlined the belief that many believe he is the greatest finisher English football has seen. The control he had over the ball when striking it with his magical left foot is incomparable with recent players at Liverpool as he could score goals from anywhere on the pitch with seemingly ease. As well as this Fowler's lack of success with the International team in comparison to Owen's golden boy status with the England team made him more popular with the Liverpool faithful as they believed Liverpool was were he was meant to be and were he was at his best. Despite his massive reputation at the club he was never Houllier's favourite which led to his departure to Leeds in 2001 and despite the stature of Leeds at the time being Liverpool's main rivals for Champions League places, the move was never begrudged by fans at the club. His character which often brought controversy to the club with the way he joked with opposition fans and had sly digs at the media also added to how Fowler was one of the people at Liverpool, the classic scouser. He was welcomed with open arms when Rafa asked him to come back in 2006 adding another 12 goals to his overall total, taking him past King Kenny in Liverpool scoring charts and into no5 in the overall list, during his last 18 months at the club. Will forever be the God of the Kop, and will be hard to top in the future.
2) Jamie Carragher: 699 Appearances, 4 Goals
Second on the overall appearance record for Liverpool, a utility player developed into a consistent central defender and arguably one of the most determined players the club has ever seen. Mr James Duncan Lee Carragher started his career at Liverpool football club as an Evertonian forward, showing how much people can change and if he never I believe Liverpool's fortunes would have been much different over the last 15 years. Whereas other players may have grabbed the headline for a winning goal over the years Carra has simply went about his business protecting the Liverpool goal with every inch of him he can. His blocks during the extra time period of Istanbul 2005 completely highlight how Carragher is the perfect example of how good footballers can be created by sheer hard work and practice. Despite not having obvious skill when it comes to passing, dribbling or striking the ball, Carraghers reading of the ball is hard to rival in the modern game. The amount of times he has dug hard and fought cramp to help the boys is completely inspiring to any young person who wants to make it as a footballer and his old style grit adds a refreshing side to the footballing world (and now the punditry one.) It is a shame in the last couple of years Carragher's body has worked against him in shortening what was potentially a record breaking career when it comes to appearances, but no one can every say our vice captain doesn't put a good shift in, 23 Carra gold.
1) Steven Gerrard: 581 Appearances, 149 Goals
Who else? Captain fantastic Steven Gerrard has dragged Liverpool single handedly out of more scraps than any other player and his title as our greatest ever is arguably not been given simply due to his lack of a league winners medal. It is hard to outline single circumstances that would make a none football fan understand how much he is loved and treasured by those at Anfield but I will try. Firstly, he was a son of the city which automatically makes his presence feel more warm as our captain is someone who watched the club as a boy. Secondly is how he has developed into the complete midfielder from a raw scouse lad in the 90s. And thirdly how he completely personifies what football should be, a passionate and exciting game were anything can happen. Whether it was a last minute block in the Champions leage final, the equalising goal in the FA cup final or the simplistic hat trick he scored in this years derby - Gerrard oozes class. He is now the 9th top goal scorer in our history and if you add this to the completely committed way he launches himself into every tackle to help our defence, you have the complete midfielder. This fact has been backed up very recently with Patrick Viera, Daniel De Rossi and Roy Keane (all midfield generals in their own right) praising Stevie on his ability. He has been our captain fantastic since 2003 ,and this year was finally named England captain officially, and he has never looked back since. A leader with skill, the one, the only, Steven Gerrard.
So that is my opinion on the top twenty players the play for the boys in red in the last 20 years, many of which you may disagree with. I must make it clear that this is my opinion on what I have seen as a Liverpool fan, so I can only apologise if it does not fit into every fan's view.