Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard makes his long awaited return to Anfield tomorrow afternoon, not as a fan favorite but as a rival.
So, what better way is there to look forward to the reunion than by looking over Gerrard’s career and highlighting the best players that lined up alongside him since his first team debut in 1998.
After all, while he’s a great player, Gerrard has had some help along the way.
The following 11 players—including Gerrard himself—represent the best team you can field (in a traditional 4-4-2 formation) using players who have played alongside Gerrard.
With that in mind, a player’s ability has been judged over the years he played for Liverpool while Gerrard was part of the first team.
As an example, Robbie Fowler’s first stint with Liverpool took place between 1993 and 2001, but only his performances from 1998 to 2001 are eligible for judgement.
Enjoy the list and make your opinion heard in the comments.
The Best Team of the Gerrard Era
Signed from Spanish club Villarreal in the summer of 2005, Pepe Reina immediately took the starting goalkeeper role from Jerzy Dudek. For the next eight seasons, no one would come close to realistically winning the job from him.
In his first 50 games for Liverpool Reina kept 28 clean sheets. His immediate success endeared him to the Anfield faithful, his clownish off-the-field antics endeared him to his team mates.
Reina won the Premier League’s Golden Glove award over three consecutive seasons between 2005 and 2008, and he was named Liverpool’s Player of the Season in 2009/10.
John Arne Riise
Arguably the finest left-back in the Premier League during the height of his skills, John Arne Riise was the epitome of the modern full-back.
Quick, a good dribbler and the possessor of a devastating shot and cross, Riise scored 33 goals for Liverpool before moving to A.S. Roma in 2008.
During Liverpool’s victory in the UEFA Champions League final of 2005, it was Riise that provided the cross for Gerrard’s goal—a goal that would act as the catalyst to that most famous of comebacks in recent football history.
Riise’s 348 games for Liverpool puts him in the top 50 in terms of all-time appearances.
With 737 appearances for Liverpool, only Ian Callaghan has played for the club on more occasions than Jamie Carragher.
Carragher made his professional debut in 1996, but it wasn’t until his second season that he would become a regular in the first team. Since then, Carragher has been an ever-present presence in a defence that has changed often around him.
Like a number of players on this list, Carragher immortalised himself during the UEFA Champions League final of 2005—a typically gutsy display helping to keep AC Milan at bay throughout injury time.
Jamie Carragher has retired from professional football. The very model of loyalty, he only ever played for Liverpool.
One of the finest central defenders in Liverpool history and the best of the Gerrard-era, Sami Hyypia commanded the back line for 10 years.
Signed from Eredivisie side Willem II in 1999, Hyypia was virtually unknown in England before his arrival at Anfield. However, it didn’t take long for the Finnish enforcer to cement his place in the team.
While at Anfield, Hyypia won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Super Cup twice, along with the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
Often the forgotten man of Rafa Benitez’s reign at Anfield, Steve Finnan started the UEFA Champions League finals of 2005 and 2007.
His 217 appearances for Liverpool makes the Irishman one of the 100 most capped players in the club’s history. In that time, Finnan scored just a single goal for Liverpool but it was his ability to provide width and crosses that made him a key part of the team when in possession.
Steve Finnan finished his career with Portsmouth, retiring in 2010.
A player blessed with world-class passing abilities, an uncanny ability to read the game and excellent teamwork skills, Xabi Alonso has proved to be the finest midfield partner Steven Gerrard has ever had.
A tireless worker, Alonso was equally skilled in cutting open a defence as he was at defending—the kind of “box-to-box” midfielder that is so important in the majority of modern formations.
Because he is still one of the best central midfielders in the world today, Liverpool fans were left understandably worried when he was sold to Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2009 for a fee thought to be around £30 million.
The best player of the Steven Gerrard-era is, of course, Steven Gerrard.
An iconic figure for Liverpool FC, and world football as a whole, Gerrard has cemented his position as one of the greatest players ever to don the red jersey.
The Aston Villa manager made 710 appearances for Liverpool and captained them to a memorable Champions League triumph in 2005, as well as winning two FA Cups, three League Cups and the UEFA Cup during his 17-year career with the club.
He scored many memorable goals – 120 in all – and played in plenty of historic matches.
While Luis Garcia did not stay at Liverpool for as long as the other players on this list, his impact cannot be underestimated.
In his first season, Garcia played a major role in getting Liverpool to the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, scoring winning goals against Juventus and Chelsea in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.
Although, the “Ghost Goal” against Chelsea was shown to have never actually crossed the line.
Injury and a desire to return to his native Spain cut the rest of Luis Garcia’s Liverpool career short, but his contributions to the most successful period of the club’s history for over 20 years will not be forgotten.
Dirk Kuyt arrived from Feyenoord as a striker with a reputation as a goal machine. In 101 Eredivisie appearances for the Dutch club, Kuyt bagged himself 71 goals.
With Liverpool, however, Kuyt was transformed and would go on to predominantly play on the right wing.
A large part of Kuyt’s effectiveness in midfield came from his incredible level of fitness. At the final whistle Kuyt would rarely seem any more fatigued than he was in the first minute.
His dedication to playing on the wing, having been so effective as a striker in Holland, stands as testament to Kuyt’s professionalism and desire to do what is best for the team.
Often overlooked and often disregarded by opposing fans, Kuyt is one of the finest players to have graced Anfield since the turn of the century.
When he arrived at Liverpool in the winter of 2011 after a prolific spell at Ajax, Luis Suarez was the Anfield club’s costliest signing, till Andy Carroll usurped him. Suarez lived up to his reputation and scored goals aplenty to ensure that Liverpool did not miss Fernando Torres, who made a shock exit to Chelsea during that transfer window.
The diminutive Uruguayan striker, who was renowned for his powerful shots, technical ability and versatility, took some time to adapt to his new surroundings before he got better with every subsequent season. Suarez’s best campaign for the club came during the 2013-14 season when he scored 31 goals to lead Liverpool to the cusp of their first Premier League title before they spectacularly imploded.
Suarez won the European Golden Shoe that season along with Cristiano Ronaldo, but just when it looked like the Uruguayan was destined for greater heights, Barcelona came calling in the summer.
Liverpool could have held on to one of their most prized assets, but they couldn’t guarantee Champions League success, which the player craved for. Eventually, Suarez left to join Barcelona where he won the competition as the Catalan club completed an incredible treble. No
Suarez’s strike ratio of 0.56 goals per game is impressive, but Fernando Torres manages to do slightly better. With 81 goals in 142 appearances, Spain’s greatest export of the time notched up a ratio of 0.57.
Torres made an immediate impact at Anfield after signing from Atletico Madrid in 2007, becoming the first Liverpool player since Robbie Fowler to score 20 or more goals in a single season.
During the summer of 2011, Torres signed for rivals Chelsea in a transfer worth £50 million—a move that did little to endear him further to The Kop.
However, it was thought in some circles that the striker’s best days were already behind him.
Goalkeeper: Jerzy Dudek
Defenders: Markus Babbel, Daniel Agger
Midfielders: Dietmar Hamann, Javier Mascherano
Forwards: Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler