Everyone can name their best Liverpool players in a heartbeat.
The likes of Steven Gerrard, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane gets mentioned time and time again, appearing in everyone's Top 10 lists as frequent as Adam Lallana’s Cruyff Turns.
But who will make the best underrated eleven in the Premier League era?
In this article, we take a look at players who have gone about doing their jobs effectively but always falling under the radar; players who hardly grab the headlines – and attempt to form a best XI.
It is time to appreciate these unsung heroes.
GK: Jerzy Dudek
People often name Pepe Reina when quizzed who’s the best goalkeeper before the arrival of Alisson Becker, and no one can really dispute that.
But let’s not forget that we had an excellent shot-stopper in the form of a Polish wearing a stylish moustache, whose career at Liverpool often defined by a single match.
Joining Liverpool in late August 2001, Jerzy Dudek immediately replaced Sander Westerveld as the number one choice. The Polish keeper went on to have a hugely successful career at Anfield, winning several major trophies including the FA Cup, League Cup and of course the Champions League.
Dudek starred in the most remarkable Champions League final of all time, producing a stirring performance and famously winning the duel with one of the world’s deadliest strikers in Andriy Shevchenko.
The game was taken to extra-time, and he denied the Ukrainian with saves that almost beggars belief — saves that were widely regarded as one of the best Champions League moments of all time.
Who can then forget the dramatic penalty shoot-out, in which his impersonation of Bruce Grobbelaar crowned Liverpool the king of Europe for the fifth time?
The moment will forever remain the pinnacle of Dudek’s career in Liverpool, and the night at Istanbul will undoubtedly be brought up when the Pole is mentioned.
We are guilty of it too, but lest we all forget — the Polish international was so much more than that and was a top, top goalkeeper.
CB: Jamie Carragher
A familiar face on TV today, it is almost fair to say that Jamie Carragher’s career after football is as successful as his playing days. He is widely regarded as one of the best football pundits – venturing into podcasts and websites to voice his opinions. This should come as no surprise, considering how vocal he is during his days on the pitch.
This leads us to the next question – will Carragher still be as highly regarded as he is today, had he not been in the football punditry and media business?
This is by no means a slight on the Englishman, but rather highlighting how he has often gone under the radar despite his consistently stellar performances on the pitch.
The boyhood Everton supporter was a no-nonsense, hard-tackling and old-fashioned defender; never blessed with the most impressive technique but his reading and versatility saw him established himself as one of England’s finest.
Fans pay to watch football to be entertained. The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Sami Hyypia and Daniel Agger – with their more graceful playing styles – will often walk into fans’ all-time best teams over Carragher.
But let us not forget what Carragher has achieved throughout his career at Anfield. His warrior-like performance in Istanbul will always be fondly remembered, and he is certainly one of Liverpool’s greatest players, with now the opportunity to replicate his success in front of the TV screen.
CB: Steven Finnan
Slotting into the right side of the back three will be the ever-reliable Steve Finnan (we know he is a right-back, just bear with us), who is arguably the most underrated footballer in history.
Discerning Liverpool fans will be quick to point out that the Irishman was one of the best fullbacks we had, but ask anyone else and they will struggle to put a face to his name.
Finnan’s playing style meant that he was never ever going to grab the headlines. He was quiet, a willing runner, defensively really sound and possessed an impressive cross — it is likely he will come across as an old-school James Milner, perhaps an even more boring one.
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy road to stardom is widely documented, serving as a proper inspiration for players in the lower leagues – and rightly so. Finnan shared a similar rag to riches story (ok, maybe the riches are nothing compared to those today), having plied his trade at all four levels of the English league football and the Conference.
People might argue that the unique distinction only proves that Finnan is really only an average footballer with limited abilities, but his success at the highest level should really make more people stand up and take notice.
With the FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup shining on his CV, accompanied with of course a Champions League gold medal around his neck, how is he not more frequently mentioned will remain one of Premier League’s greatest mystery.
CB: Alvaro Arbeloa
Alvaro Arbeloa was brought in by Rafa Benitez as a right-back to replace Finnan, and his versatility saw him often employed on the left side instead. In fact, his debut saw him up against Barcelona at left-back, in which he managed to nullify the threat of a certain 19-year-old Argentinian to see Liverpool win 2-1. Oh, the Argentinian went on to become the best player on the planet.
With a start to life in England as such, it wasn’t long before he won the endearment of the Kop.
Despite not lifting a single trophy, Arbeloa went on to have a really memorable career at Liverpool – establishing himself as one of the finest, most versatile fullbacks in the league.
Who can forget his first for Liverpool, a brilliant curling effort against Reading?
Not many will have the number 17 with the Spaniard’s name printed on the back of their jerseys, but Arbeloa will definitely remain one of the most consistent fullbacks of Liverpool and truly an underrated servant of the club.
DM: Lucas Leiva
This is one player on the list no one can really argue against.
Lucas Leiva’s career at Liverpool was without a doubt a roller-coaster ride, carrying the Brazilian through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. From having the Kop turn against him in his earlier days to being voted as Player of the Year, he was surely put through the ride of his life.
Lucas was the very un-Brazilian Brazilian – never one to set the stage alight with flashy skills or dribbles, hardly scores or puts in an assist.
But here is a player that does the dirty work expertly, shielding the back four with his excellent positional sense and ensuring the more attacking players around him can go about without worrying about things at the back.
Lucas’ brilliant attitude and determination saw him leave the club for Lazio as one of Liverpool’s very own, endearingly known as the Brazilian Scouser, even till today.
Nothing unlucky when we signed him from Gremio.
DM: Dietmar Hamann
Dietmar Hamann, very much like Lucas, was never the sort of player to grab the headlines after each game, and that’s not to say he hasn’t had quite a career at Liverpool. In fact, the influential German was quite the opposite.
Hamann was a key part of Liverpool’s midfield in the early 2000s, racking up 191 appearances for the Reds. He was a highly consistent player and a model professional, always putting in a proper shift and the team’s interest ahead of him.
This was perhaps best encapsulated in the 2005 Champions League Final. Hamann came on to spark the remarkable 2nd half comeback, and even converted the first spot-kick in the shootout with a broken foot (!) and lifted the European Cup. The heroics of Gerrard, Carragher and Dudek that night meant that Hamann’s performance might always be slightly hidden in the shadows.
With the increasing prominence of football divas today, the likes of Hamann will be a rare gem in the modern game. He was always hugely underrated in his time, often accompanied by more prominent players like Steven Gerrard in the team – one wonders how will he fare in today’s game?
The appreciation shown for Fabinho today could probably mean that the German might be grabbing a couple more headlines than he had if he was a player today.
AM: Adam Lallana
Pirouetting his way into the list is Adam Lallana, whose footballing career at Liverpool is unfortunately blighted by injuries. The Englishman is an incredibly talented player – blessed with the ability to use both feet, possessed excellent close control and skills and had a flair that was almost going against the grain of the typical mould of English players.
Lallana was a key figure in Jurgen Klopp’s early days, with his playing style the perfect fit for the German’s pressing game. Lallana’s excellent physicality – he was quick, aggressive and could run all day long – combined with his footballing smartness meant that he was often the trigger to start the press, often resulting in the opponents turning over possession.
Injuries, however, always threatened to derail his career. Long-term injuries often resulted in him sitting out of important moments, and it was definitely a shame to see him not more involved in the successful 2018/2019 season. No one can really claim that his presence was sorely missed during that campaign, but Klopp would surely love to have the creative spark as an option.
It is fair to say that this mercurial talent still had a really good career at Anfield (and still can go on to greater heights this season), but he might well be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Mane, Salah and Firmino – had he enjoyed better luck with injuries.
LM: Yossi Benayoun
The slight Israeli midfielder earns a spot in this list, occupying the left side of the midfield. Benayoun’s best spell in England was arguably in Liverpool, pulling the strings on many occasions and went on to deliver numerous memorable performances.
The number 15 was the first of only three players to score Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League hat-tricks, with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane in that list too. Not bad company, if you ask us.
Benayoun was small in stature, but that did not deny him from making a mark in games. His superb technical ability and remarkable football brain often meant that he towered heads and shoulders over his counterparts in duels.
The technical aspects of his game were very sound – passing, playmaking and vision were all brilliant, with his elegant dribbling skills making him stand out.
He was chipping in with important goals too, and his performance during the famous 4-4 draw against Arsenal will always be overshadowed by Andrei Arshavin. The Russian might have netted four that night, but astute observers of the game might note that it was the Israeli who deserved the man of the match award – scoring two goals in the process.
That was perhaps the theme of his career in England, constantly surrounded by superstars and never really grabbing the headlines – but Benayoun was truly a gifted player in his own right and the Kop was treated to some highly memorable moments.
RM: Dirk Kuyt
When Dirk Kuyt first arrived in 2006, we (like many others) wondered what we will be getting. The likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie came into mind as the great Dutch forwards who truly lit up the Premier League.
Will the new addition with the shaggy blonde mop be able to reach such great heights?
Kuyt arrived with quite a reputation, having plundered an incredible 71 goals in 101 games for Feyenoord. Rafa Benitez bought Kuyt right after the success of Istanbul and was setting his sights on the Holy Grail – desperately needing a 20-goals-a-season forward.
The Dutchman perhaps showed the levels between the Eredivise and the Premier League, mustering only 15 goals (still a very respectable haul) in his most prolific season at Anfield.
He then quickly built a reputation for his ability to run instead, not quite the superstar trait fans were expecting – but consistently put in the blue-collar shift for the team which won the admiration of many. He would hunt down opposition players; trackback 30 yards to win the ball back and play wherever the team needed him to play.
The number 18 was a selfless player, putting in the hard work that was slowly becoming a rare commodity in the modern game. He certainly did not quite capture the imagination like van Nistelrooy did at Old Trafford, but his efforts definitely won over the Kop – and was instead more reminiscent of a three-lung Korean who played for the Red Devils.
The Dutchman left as a cult hero — not quite hitting the dizzy heights fans expected from his days at Eredivise, but captured the hearts of every single Red with his attitude and performances on the pitch.
The hat-trick at Old Trafford will surely be the highlight.
A true underrated cult hero – we would love to think that Jurgen Klopp will kill to have an option like the tireless Dutch in his team today.
LF: Luis Garcia
“Luis Garcia, he drinks sangria… he came from Barca, to bring us joy!”
Every Liverpool fan that followed the Reds through the 2000s will have been caught singing the famous song at least once, drunk or not.
To include Garcia in this list might be a little tricky, as he was by no means underrated by the Kop. Liverpool fans love him to bits, but it is bizarre to think that the talent of the diminutive Spanish is only properly appreciated on the red side of Merseyside.
Garcia arrived at Liverpool from mighty Barcelona in 2006 as one of Rafa’s Spanish contingent. He was 26 when he arrived, which also meant that time was not exactly on his side. The Spaniard took little time to settle though, three goals in his first 10 games (including this belter against Charlton Athletic) quickly showed the Kop he might be something special.
The number 10 went on to establish a strong connection with the fans, largely in part due to his European heroics (the famous ghost goal, screamer against Juventus to name a few…) which played a part in the Red's successful European ventures.
The mercurial talent is perhaps one of the most gifted players we had, ridiculously two-footed, good aerial ability, skilful and always puts in a shift. He was simply a joy to watch, a player that will make you fall in love with the game if you are watching it for the first time.
It is truly a mystery how rival fans were not more aware of this the five-foot-seven Spaniard, who belonged in football heaven.
RF: Roberto Firmino
Another darling of the Kop who is overlooked by many other football fans, Roberto Firmino has perhaps only in recent times been getting the plaudits he deserves. The Brazilian is undoubtedly a special player, almost one of a kind and even created a position which other forwards are hoping to emulate.
The number 9 combines flair and hard work to perfection – subtle and effective flicks, excellent link-up play and good defensive acumen makes him one of the most important players in today’s team.
He is also the first Brazilian to score 50 Premier League goals, and it is not an understatement to say that the 27-year-old is a central part to Liverpool’s success today.
Firmino makes football look easy; his excellent first touch and ability to control any ball (remember this goal?) often grants him an extra few vital seconds to gain an advantage over defenders, expertly bringing in the likes of Salah and Mane into play. His has an air of arrogance to his play too; some of his skills are simply outrageous and what about his no-look goals?
Perhaps it is the phenomenal goal-scoring efforts of Salah or the flashy skills of Mane that often places the Brazilian slightly in the shadows, but ask any Liverpool fan and they can go for a month straight telling you about their love and admiration for Si Senor.
Fingers firmly crossed – should Firmino end up with a Premier League medal around his neck, one will then wonder if he might then be regarded as one of the best forwards the league has seen, and undoubtedly the one with the most charming grin.