This is it. We’ve made it to the pointy end of our countdown of the ten best Liverpool signings of the 2010s. Today: pick No. 1.
With the passing of the 2010s it’s time to look in the rear-view mirror and remember some of the weird and the wonderful to don the Liverpool shirt.
This is a Liverpool team of footballing misfits, outlaws and forgotten men.
None of these players would make Liverpool’s best team of the decade or likely even the second-best team, being instead something of a hipster team made up of cult players who were briefly beautiful during their time in the sun.
This team is half mad, half wonderful and forever Liverpool.
As a rule, none of Liverpool’s current squad have been included. This team is a walk down memory lane, looking upon some of the special and different footballers who shone, often in hard times.
The team has been selected to fit within a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina
Goalkeeper was the problem position of the decade, but Liverpool began it with a club legend in goal: Pepe Reina. The legendary Gianluigi Buffon would declare Reina the best of his era with his feet, but Reina’s form dropped as the Liverpool team waned around him.
The Spaniard would leave in strange circumstances before establishing himself as first-choice keeper in a Napoli team with whom he would play some of the best football of the decade, leaving Liverpool fans to wonder. Underappreciated today but never unloved, Reina takes the field as this team’s sweeper-keeper.
Right back: Glen Johnson
Glen Johnson had the misfortune to arrive at Liverpool as the wheels were falling off, but he was the best right back in the country in his prime. A rampaging attacking force, Johnson would provide width and crosses aplenty, but what set him apart was his ability to break into the box and cut onto his left dangerously.
Overall the England regular was a rarity: a two-footed right back who scored several absolute worldies on his left foot. Johnson’s efforts waned as he passed 30, but on his day he was a phenomenal player, making 200 appearances for the Reds.
Centre back: Martin Skrtel
With his shaved head and ink-covered, arms Martin Skrtel proved to be Liverpool’s unlooked-for defensive rock in turbulent times in the first half of the decade, remaining the team’s first choice under three different managerial regimes.
An intimidating character, 2010-11 was the Slovakian’s breakout season, when he played all 38 Premier League games, but the title charge of 2013-14 was perhaps his finest, scoring seven goals from centre back in 36 Premier League games for Brendan Rodgers swashbuckling Reds. An ink-covered outlaw, Skrtel hardens the defensive line of this team.
Centre back: Mamadou Sakho
They say there is a fine line between genius and madness, and Liverpool fans could never quite decide which category best suited ‘Mama’. Sakho arrived at Liverpool from Paris Saint-Germain with pedigree, having won all four domestic trophies and become the youngest Ligue 1 captain ever, but the English media and indeed even some Liverpool fans could never overcome his ungainly style.
In a different world and a different time Sakho might have been a success. A personality who was liked by many Liverpool fans and coined the phrase ‘Liverpool nation’, Mama earns his spot in this team of characters.
Left back: Jose Enrique
Many may only remember Jose Enrique as a bit-part player, but across the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons the Spaniard was ever-present, racking up 78 appearances in all competitions. A muscular full back with a deft left peg, the former Newcastle man filled a problem position with gusto. Sadly, injury issues would ravage the Spaniard.
Built like a proverbial brick you-know-what, Enrique would occasionally remind you of his continental heritage with some slick interplay. The near-telepathic relationship the Spanish fullback formed with Luis Suarez in his first two seasons was a highlight, as he’d slide balls over, under and around the opposition and into the busy, bustling feet of the Uruguayan.
Central midfielder: Joe Allen
A gifted ball-playing midfielder, Joe Allen perhaps had the misfortune of playing tika taka at a club whose style is pass and move. Having burst onto the scene as part of Swansea’s cavalier arrival in the big leagues, Allen followed manager Rodgers to Liverpool.
A clever little two-footed player who could turn on a dime, he played a key role in Rodgers best teams, even if they rarely played to his strengths. A Spanish player locked inside a Welshman’s body, Allen was at times criminally underappreciated.
Perhaps the ultimate hipster’s choice, a footballer’s footballer for those who enjoy a subtle talent, Allen pulls this team’s underappreciated strings.
Central midfielder: Raul Meireles
Raul Meireles arrived as a diminutive cultured midfielder at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, playing 20 times in a poorly balanced Roy Hodgson team while quietly registering one assist. When he left Liverpool just a year later, he departed as a wild man of a footballer, an introverted extrovert whose inner insanity flowed out onto the pitch.
Kenny Dalglish’s arrival awakened something within Meireles as he unleashed a month of madness, scoring a rising screamer against Everton, a stunning 30-yard volley against Wolves before subsequently netting against Stoke, Chelsea and Wigan. And then, like that, he was gone. A two-footed wizard with a streak of something special, he had briefly papered over the Torres shaped cracks before leaving Liverpool fans to wonder what might have been.
Right wing: Dirk Kuyt
Perennially underappreciated, there was a time you could set your watch to Dirk Kuyt. He’d play week in and week out, he’d put in a shift and he’d score double figures every season. A striker who played on the wing and put in a shift-like workhorse midfielder, Kuyt was always something of a footballing misfit, albeit a dependable one.
When Liverpool began to collapse at the start of the decade, Kuyt kept the facade from completely falling in, finishing Liverpool’s top scorer in 2011-12 with 13 in the league, and a hat-trick against Manchester United.
In one of his last acts, the reliable Dutchman scored Liverpool’s all-important second goal and converted his penalty in the 2012 League Cup Final against Cardiff to bring the first silverware of the decade home.
Central attacking midfielder: Maxi Rodriguez
Maxi Rodriguez arrived at Liverpool as an experienced attacker but he initially flattered to deceive, scoring just one goal in his first season. It would be 2010-11 when Maxi would hit his straps, scoring ten goals across 28 Premier League appearances.
A mercurial player, Rodríguez would score two stunning hat-tricks that season, against Birmingham and Fulham. More than a mere goalscorer, the Argentine international was a clever player who shone in dark times and set the stage for the better teams to come.
Left wing: Craig Bellamy
If anything summed up the false dawn of the Dalglish era, it was the second half of the 2011-12 season when amidst a Luis Suarez suspension. Liverpool relied upon a Craig Bellamy the wrong side of 30 to provide their attacking spark.
The man formerly dubbed the ‘nutter with the putter’ and the ‘gobbiest footballer’ ever was back and he was instrumental. Irrepressible in Liverpool’s Cup run, he would assist twice in the quarter-final against Chelsea and score the goal to put Liverpool ahead on aggregate against Manchester City in the semi-final.
Back at a club he loved, the Welsh firebrand would score nine and assist seven across 37 games, with over half of those appearances from the bench, and win the League Cup. It was reward for his right amount of crazy.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
If Meireles had an untouchable month, Daniel Sturridge had a season and a half. The gold dust fell upon him from above, he wore boots dipped in ambrosia, the hair of angels entwined his laces, mere mortals couldn’t stop him and the laws of this world – as his impudent chip against West Brom showed – could not contain him.
Arriving with Coutinho in January 2013, Sturridge would score ten goals in just 14 Premier League games to announce himself before following it up with 21 goals in 29 the following season to take Liverpool agonisingly close to the title.
Daniel’s partnership with Suarez was a glitch in the matrix, two soloists united fleetingly in a combination which was too devastatingly brilliant to last. Injuries reduced the striker’s physical capabilities to a pale imitation of what they once were, and Sturridge became a talented misfit in a changing team, but we will always have the memories.