IT’S Nuri Sahin’s birthday this week, bringing back haunting memories of Brendan Rodgers’ constant desire to play players out of their natural positions — with Sahin as probably the worst case.
As we never got to see the best of Sahin, we decided to make an 11 of players who we could have grown to love, but were never given the time to be a success at Anfield.
CONSIDERING the trouble we’ve had with goalkeepers down the years, it seems mad in hindsight that Brad Friedel, who clocked up 15 years as a Premier League goalie, made just 31 appearances for the Reds.
As he became a mainstay in the Premier League, breaking records including consecutive appearances for a goalie, even scoring a goal, many a Red wondered why he was seemingly let go so early.
Bought in December 1997 for just £1million, after years of fuss around his work permit, Friedel initially had to wait for his chance to shine. The American finally got a go between the sticks in the February, and played the final 11 games of the season.
But it all went wrong for big Brad at Old Trafford when the Reds lost to the Mancs in September 1998.
First he let a low shot from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer slip through his arms for a corner. He then met David Beckham’s kick with a weak punch which saw the ball dropping to Paul Scholes.
Jason McAteer handballed it to prevent the non-smiler getting the ball, Denis Irwin scored the pen and the next day’s paper spoke of Liverpool yet again needing a quality goalkeeper.
From there chances for Friedel were few and far between, David James regaining the gloves before Sander Westerveld was signed.
Friedel felt he was unfairly treated, saying in an interview at the time: “I’d started the season well and it was a joke to get dropped for one shaky 20 minutes in the first 10 games. I was treated very poorly and it was very unfair.
“Peter Schmeichel was dodgy for two months but he came through it with flying colours. A bad 20 minutes wasn’t going to devastate the rest of my career.”
He was right to be fair.
SPANISH youngsters at Liverpool. Seems a repetitive story, doesn’t it? Antonio Barragan was never really given a chance. Obviously it’s hard to know what goes on behind closed doors — for all we know he might have been a prick.
Whatever the reason, he only made appearance for the club, replacing Fernando Morientes in a Champions League qualifier against CSKA Sofia. That was as good as it got for his time at Anfield, but the Reds may regret their decision to sell him.
Despite featuring more at new club Deportivo La Coruna, his progress took another setback when he suffered a knee injury, ruling him out for the rest of the season. From there he moved to Real Valladolid, where he became a regular starter, and his performances helped him secure a move to Valencia, amassing 151 appearances.
At six foot one, he is an ideal option to play both centre back and right back — so it has proven since his Premier League return with Middlesbrough. He has played the whole 90 minutes of all three league games this campaign, slotting in at centre back, and has looked solid — conceding just twice.
With the Reds lacking cover for Nathaniel Clyne at right back, barring the inexperienced Trent Alexander-Arnold, — and with ongoing problems in the centre of defence — perhaps Barragan would have provided a good option, though there’s no telling what could have happened in ten years at the club.
The Reds haven’t particularly suffered with the likes of Steve Finnan, Alvaro Arbeloa and Glen Johnson all proving solid for the Reds. But it does make you think.
TO be honest, you probably didn’t realise Gabriel Paletta left the club — or that he ever played for us — until he appeared for Italy in the 2014 World Cup.
But it did happen. He actually played eight games for Liverpool, three of which were in the league when Rafa Benitez had his eye on the upcoming Champions League final. Three League Cup appearances and two Champions League games, and Paletta was heading for the exit — his highlight, but definitely a lowlight, was his nightmare performance in a 6-3 League Cup defeat to Arsenal.
From there he went to Boca Juniors where he enjoyed a much more successful spell, and he secured a move back to Europe with Parma in 2010.
His performances for the Serie A side caught the eye of Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, who called him up to the squad, despite being born in Argentina — his great grandfather had emigrated to Argentina from Italy, so that’s that one cleared up.
Then there he was. On our screens as Italy played England in Brazil. Minus loads of hair. Was mad.
But, during a time when Liverpool have had long-term problems in the centre of defence, it does raise questions as to whether, given the time, he could have turned out to be a success for the club.
Instead, here he is. We could have loved him. Couldn’t have loved his hair, though. Proper shite.
Mikel San Jose
THIS one does hurt me. Probably more than it should. He’s some player now.
Mikel San Jose signed for the Reds from Athletic Bilbao, for a fee of £270,000, and was a star of the late Gary Ablett’s reserve team as they won their league title, with the Spaniard’s performances earning him some playing time in pre-season in the summer of 2009.
Soon after he was loaned back to Bilbao, for what was assumed would be some first team minutes — to help prepare him for a return to Anfield. But it was actually the first stage in his exit from the club, as the Basque club re-signed him at the end of the 2009/10 season.
Manager Joaquin Caparros clearly had faith in San Jose’s ability, as he made him the club’s penalty taker. It may have seemed we dodged a bullet when he had an absolute nightmare against Real Sociedad, conceding a penalty and scoring an own goal in a 2-0 defeat. That far from tells the whole story, however.
He has been a regular at San Mames ever since his return, and his performances have earned him a lot of plaudits. Most importantly for him, some of those plaudits were coming from the direction of the Spanish national team.
In August 2014, he was called up to the senior Spain squad by Vicente Del Bosque, and was selected in the side that travelled to Euro 2016.
All told, 267 appearances, with 31 goals. Can play as both a centre back and defensive midfielder, is comfortable on the ball, robust and intelligent. Would happily have him back, me.
SAYS a lot about a bloke who can overcome three leg breaks and still rise through the academy into the first team — and the fact he was nurtured by Alan Kennedy.
Stephen Warnock was a solid player. Solid consistently and solid in the tackle. You take people like him for granted until you’ve got Alberto Moreno flying about like some sort of mad deflating balloon.
Despite making 60 appearances over two seasons for the Reds, he did suffered personal heartbreak on two occasions during his first senior year at the club. First, after appearing in every round of the League Cup prior, he was dropped from the squad for the final. Then he was also absent from the squad in Istanbul, subsequently missing out on a medal — apparently there weren’t enough to go round. Seems dead fair that.
He would only make two FA Cup appearances in 2005/6, as Liverpool went on to win it — another medal missed out on for Warnock. He, among others, were struggling to kick on under Rafa’s policy of rotating the squad, and it was becoming clear he would need to move elsewhere to get more regular game time.
From Anfield he moved to Blackburn, where he spent four years, before moving to Aston Villa, for another four. That’s eight more years as a regular starter in the Premier League, injury permitting.
Since then he has had spells in the Championship with Bolton, Leeds, Derby and, his current club, Wigan. Meanwhile, James Milner is our starting left back — not saying Warnock could still play for us, but he probably could.
SUSO joined the long list of Spanish youngsters that never fulfilled their potential at Liverpool — Dani Pacheco, Sergi Canos and Luis Alberto spring to mind, among others.
Suso was initially scouted by Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid before his time at Liverpool, rumour has it a phone call from Rafa swayed him to join the Reds. So there must have been something there.
He made his senior debut against Young Boys, after an impressive stint in the academy, though he was perhaps overshadowed by performances of teammates Luis Suarez. The arrival of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, he soon saw his game time reduced — despite signing a new contract in 2012.
He was subsequently sent out on loan to La Liga outfit Almeria for the duration of the 2013/14 season, to gain more first team experience — the first step towards his inevitable Anfield exit.
A solid year in Spain saw him called back, with Champions League football to manage, though he did not feature despite being named in the squad. He went on to make just one appearance that season, featuring in a League Cup win over Middlesbrough.
In January 2015, AC Milan declared their interest in signing the Spaniard and, despite having a new contract offer on the table, he joined the Rossoneri, with Liverpool receiving a compensation fee of 1.3m euros.
Since joining Milan, Suso’s fortunes have been mixed. After struggling to hold down a first team place, he was sent out on loan to Serie A side Genoa, where he scored a sublime hat trick against Frosinone.
Can Suso meet his potential in Italy and prove us all wrong? It remains to be seen. But time is still on his side at just 22 years old.
WHEN us Reds heard we were signing a player who had featured for the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, we were rightfully excited — even if it was just a loan.
After developing into a key player under Jürgen Klopp at Dortmund, as it does for many glittering stars, the black hole of the Spanish super giants came calling, as he joined in a deal worth 10m euros.
However, after failing to make an impression in his debut season at Madrid, he was made available for loan in the hope he could push on when given first team football.
Arsenal were the first to pounce, but failed to strike a deal and Sahin subsequently joined Liverpool on loan — after a conversation with Rodgers persuaded him that a move to Merseyside was in his best interests.
He had the potential to be a real Turkish delight for the Reds, however, Rodgers was convinced his best role was as a defensive midfielder — which proved to be the sticking point of his Anfield stint.
After 12 appearances, and a falling out with the manager over his role, he was sent back to Madrid, only halfway into his loan. From there he returned to Dortmund, though it hasn’t been the career revival he would have hoped for — another ex-Red plagued by injuries.
He could have been boss for the Reds if used properly. Rodgers and his pesky desire to play players out of position, eh?
BIG Momo. His name conjures images of crunching tackles and dodgy eye-wear.
Having previously played under Benitez at Valencia, he was re-signed by the Spaniard in the summer of 2005 — having been infamously stolen from under Everton’s noses.
He quickly became a fan favourite, and honorary Scouser, showcasing his willingness to get stuck in — featuring regularly as the anchor of the midfield.
However, a nasty eye injury suffered against Benfica halfway through his first season almost brought his career to an abrupt. But he came back fighting and returned wearing Edgar Davids style glasses for protection — players with them on are always snide.
His eyes weren’t the only setback, he seemed half the player he was in the following season. After dislocating his days at Anfield seemed numbered. The Reds signed Javier Mascherano in 2007 to play in the middle of the park, and that was all she wrote.
Claudio Ranieri, who Momo had also worked with at Valencia, signed him for Juventus and he seemed back to his old self, becoming a regular starter in the side that finished as runners-up in Serie A. However, it wasn’t long before he was back on the treatment table.
Despite returning to fitness, he was unable to rekindle his performances at Juve. From there he became something of a journeyman, with spells at PSG, Fiorentina, Levante and a mad brief stint at Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.
Currently on trial at West Brom, it would be nice to see him out on the pitch at Anfield one more time. With a bit more luck, he could have established himself as a real cult hero alongside the likes of Dirk Kuyt.
Instead he’s categorised by words such as ‘alright’ and ‘decent’. Shame.
‘SHEEDS’ as he imaginatively came to be known as by our blue brethren, represents arguably the biggest ‘one that got away’ story in LFC history. Well, he would do, if we really cared that much.
Kevin Sheedy left Liverpool when he was just 22 years old — having joined for a nominal fee, aged 18. His Anfield career had just three league appearances and a goal against Exeter City in a League Cup tie to show for itself. When Howard Kendall signed up him up for peanuts for Everton in 1982, there were no protests from the Reds at the first cross-city transfer in a good while. We simply weren’t arsed.
History says that Sheeds went on to become part of possibly the best midfield in Everton’s history, and certainly the best period in Everton’s history. For three years, Sheedy, Trevor Steven, Peter Reid and Paul Bracewell were imperious.
Had we given away a player of his quality for nothing in any era post 1990, we’d be endlessly lamenting the folly of his loss. And yet we never really talk about Sheedy’s departure as affecting our destiny. There has never been a shout of ‘if only we’d kept him’. Why? One name — Ronnie Whelan.
Sheeds and Wheelers (I’ve just made that up) came through in the same Liverpool Central League side (aka ‘the reserves’). They played alongside each other and vied for their favoured left midfield positions. Bob Paisley and the gang made their choice. Whelan over Sheedy. The rest, for all concerned, was history.
ALL these years later, the bare stats look fairly unremarkable. Nicolas Anelka played in 22 games for Liverpool, scoring five goals.
But, as ever, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Anelka had earned himself a reputation as a bad boy, a troublemaker — the Incredible Sulk. On the other hand he also had was undoubted quality — an accomplished finisher, pace to burn; every inch the much heralded ‘marquee signing’ of modern times. The Newcastle game at Anfield was a showcase of his talent. What could have been.
More, Anelka was happy on Merseyside. He spoke well of Liverpool, club and city, and continued to do so throughout his nomadic career of scoring loads of goals. It’s perhaps this aspect that eats away the most. What could Anelka have done at a club when he was happy considering he scored so often when he clearly wasn’t?
The accepted version of events is that Gerard Houllier passed up on the opportunity to sign Anelka because his big bad brothers had spoken to Arsenal. But so what? That happens all the time. It doesn’t really seem to add up.
El Hadji Diouf instead arrived at Liverpool and Anelka moved to Manchester City for £13m. Predictably, he scored a load of goals, unlike the spit-happy prick who arrived in his place.
Steven Gerrard later nailed it: “Nicolas was top class for us and I thought he’d done enough to stay. He was a good lad around the dressing room as well.
“What made it doubly disappointing was that I knew how desperate he was to sign on a permanent deal at the time. I don’t think anyone will deny we got that one wrong.”
Steve ‘Stan’ Staunton is actually the closest we’ve come in our history to ‘doing a Paul Pogba’ — albeit without the enormous amounts of money involved.
Stan was spotted in Ireland turning out for Dundalk and signed as a 17-year-old by Kenny Dalglish, in 1986. Within two years he was in the first team squad and getting games. He was viewed very much as an apprentice Steve Nicol. He was tried out in a range of defensive and midfield positions, on the left hand side. He was never to nail down a consistent first team place but managed around 20 odd games (many from the bench) per season over the course of a dramatic period in Liverpool FC history.
Souness released Staunton to Villa in his first summer, but his departure was overshadowed by the greater shock of Peter Beardsley’s move to Everton.
Staunton’s first Liverpool stint was a strange one. Kenny had faith in him, but the fans never really took to him. When Villa paid a decent £1.1m for him in August 1991, there was a shrugging acceptance that it was the right move. However, Staunton became a star at Villa and shone for his native Republic of Ireland, too.
Seven years on from his move we got him back on a free. A the time, he seemed young enough to have plenty left in the tank and he looked capable of filling another defensive hole. As sod’s law would have it, though, he never hit the heights he’d shown at Villa. The record books will show he spent a total of eight years at Anfield, but it was his years in the midlands, and on far foreign fields for his country, that he will be best remembered for.
P.S. You might be wondering why he’s upfront. He came on for Ian Rush in a League Cup tie against Wigan and scored a hat-trick. In a 3-0 win. You couldn’t make it up.
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