It’s fair to say we’ve been blessed with some of the finest central midfielders the footballing world has ever seen.
Since the year 2000, we’ve had a heady mix of powerhouses, magicians and defensive walls. Here’s my top four, along with some honourable mentions.
Xabi Alonso (2004-2009)
Is there anything bad you can say about Xabi Alonso? I can’t think of anything. The man who once described tackling as ‘a last resort, and you will need it, but it isn’t a quality to aspire to’, was an utter genius on the ball. Signed for just £14 million from Real Sociedad, I think it’s safe to say he’s the finest passer we’ve ever had. He could drop a football on a pinpoint from 45 yards. Part of the famous Champions League 2005 winning team (scored the rebound from his own penalty in the final) and a top bloke too. Still loved by the fans who will never forget his two goals from inside his own half.
Javier Mascherano (2007-2010)
Arguably the only truly world-class central midfielder Liverpool have signed since Xabi Alonso. He was part of the formidable midfield trio with Alonso and Gerrard that almost won the title in 2009. A tough tackling defensive midfielder who came from West Ham for just under £20 million. He truly excelled in the fast-paced and physical Premier League. Sadly left for Barca.
Steven Gerrard (1998-2015)
Olympiakos, West Ham, AC Milan. Performances speak louder than words. There was nothing he couldn’t do – probably the most complete player the Premier League has ever seen. From sprinting 40 yards after Cristiano Ronaldo and smashing him off his feet to scoring screamers from outside the box with either foot, Stevie G was our captain, our hero, our idol, our Hercules, our homegrown boy, and more. Our best ever player??
Phil Coutinho (2013-2018)
The Brazilian magician lit up Anfield since arriving in the January 2013 transfer window for just £8.5 million from Inter Milan. Under Brendan Rodgers, he had an immediate impact on the squad. Blessed with dazzling footwork, an eye for a pass and a long-range shot to dream of, he had the lot. Sadly, and like Mascherano, he left for Barcelona after delivering one of the finest 6 months of football you’ll see by any player for the club. Many fans haven’t forgotten the circumstances in which he left, but what I’d say to those fans is: Remember his performance levels in his last few months (when everyone knew he wanted out) and watch a highlights reel back. Simply put, soak in his talent. Sold for a whopping £142 million. Made 30 yarders look like penalties.
Gary McAllister (2000-2002): Joined on a free at the age of 35 years old. Didn’t hang around very long but vital in the team that won a treble of cups in the 2000–01 season. Our main man Gérard Houllier once described him as his ‘most inspirational signing’.
Lucas Leiva (2007-2017): Signed as a goalscoring attacking midfielder, converted to a ball-winning defensive midfielder who was a shoo-in for a yellow card most games. Great servant (10 years at the club) and a former Reds player of the year. Loved by his teammates and the fans.
Jordan Henderson (2011-present): Steadily improved after we signed up, now the club captain and still a key member of the squad. Won’t be the Gerrard replacement we had all hoped, but then who would?! Faces a ridiculous amount of bewildering criticism.
Emre Can (2014-2018): Massively high hopes for Can, and once the long-term Gerrard replacement. Excellent at times and scored a ridiculous overhead kick against Watford. Left before he could really become a legend.
Didi Hamann (1999-2006): Veteran Didi, the well-loved German was a solid presence in central midfield. Not one of the most glamorous centre midfielders around, but a very good servant and part of some famous cup-winning teams.
Vlad Smicer (1999-2005): Scored a goal in the best match of all time so deserves a mention. Also, still an avid fan!
Jamie Redknapp (1991-2002): Club captain, a spice boy, beautiful,
One for the future…