Familiarity breeds contempt as the old adage goes, but Steven Gerrard seems determined to get the band back together and reunite with one or two familiar faces at Villa Park.
Philippe Coutinho has already joined him in the West Midlands after transferring on loan from Barcelona, and now Luis Suarez has been linked with a move to Aston Villa, evoking memories of one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking quartets. What’s Daniel Sturridge up to these days?
Suarez is nearly 35 but, as Barca found out to their detriment, he is still an able-bodied and potent attacking force, firing Atletico Madrid to La Liga glory last term. But, with his contract up in June and having fallen slightly down the Atleti pecking order, Villa have now entered the frame as a viable summer destination.
Whether a move materialises or not, the very links and swirling rumours have got us all at Squawka giddy with nostalgia. Gerrard-Coutinho-Suarez-Sturridge is a Premier League classic, bringing flash backs of ‘Crystanbul’, a jet-heeled Demba Ba racing through at Anfield, and one of the many routs at Carrow Road.
Indeed, Gerrard played with some of the game’s finest during a trophy-spangled 17 years in front of the Kop, and we’ve tried our best to put together his ultimate teammate XI. Do any of the above make the grade? Read on to find out…
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina
When Jose (Pepe) Reina joined Liverpool in 2005, Rafa Benitez described him as “the best goalkeeper in Spain”. No pressure then. Well, nerves certainly didn’t appear to be part of Reina’s goalkeeping catechism as he went on to serve between the sticks at Anfield with distinction, establishing himself as one of the division’s finest shot-stoppers which culminated in him winning three Premier League Golden Gloves. He denied some of the game’s best centre-forwards and went on to keep an incredible 134 clean sheets for Liverpool, with a ratio of 0.47 per game, which is higher than any other goalie with 100 or more shutouts.
Right-back: Alvaro Arbeloa
Alvaro Arbeloa definitely falls in the category of players who weren’t truly appreciated for their abilities, especially in the Premier League. The Spaniard spent just over two years with Liverpool before going to win it all with Real Madrid, but was a staple of Benitez’s side at Anfield, playing 98 times. A no-nonsense full-back that formed part of Liverpool’s stingy back-line, the Reds truly struggled to replace him after his departure.
Centre-back: Jamie Carragher
After an unspectacular start to his career in which he was often described as a “limited defender” when stationed as a full-back, Carragher overcame a reputation of mediocrity to become one of the finest Premier League centre-backs. A perceptive reading of the game and positional intelligence more than made up for Carragher’s lack of pace or rudimentary skill-set on the ball. He was the chief policeman in a watertight Liverpool defence during the Benitez era and was even once labelled as the toughest defender Didier Drogba ever faced. As far as endorsements go, that has to be up there with the very best.
Centre-back: Sami Hyypia
Finland has never been one of the great footballing talent factories, but when they produce a player of note, they tend to be spectacular. That was the case for Jari Litmanen, and it was also certainly the case for Sami Hyypia as well, both of whom had stints at Anfield. One more memorable than the other, mind. In Hyypia, Liverpool had a defensive stalwart who marshalled the backline for 10 solid years. Having been recommended to the club by a TV cameraman, Hyypia went from a complete unknown to a fan favourite almost overnight, winning the treble with Liverpool in 2000/01 and going on to captain the side.
Left-back: John Arne Riise
If you wanted someone running onto a loose ball with the option of shooting, more often than not you’d choose John Arne Riise. But the Norwegian full-back had so much more than just a rocket of a left foot. He was also one of the best left-backs in the Premier League during his seven-year spell with Liverpool in which he also won the FA Cup, League and Champions League. It was Riise who set up Gerrard for the first goal in the 2005 Champions League final with a peach of a cross, starting the Istanbul comeback.
Central midfield: Xabi Alonso
A man whose name will be forever inked in Liverpool folklore after he netted the third in the club’s improbable Champions League final comeback against AC Milan. Alonso was a generational talent, a superlative midfield commander who formed a near-telepathic understanding with Gerrard. In tandem, the duo dominated the middle of the park in England for five glorious years, distributing with the precision of a Swiss watch and forming their own personal rondo on the pitch. “Xabi Alonso – best midfielder I’ve played with, I miss playing with him,” Gerrard once commented. We miss watching him!
Central midfield: Javier Mascherano
Possibly one of the strangest players to ever grace the Premier League. Having been kept out of a struggling West Ham side by Hayden Mullins, Javier Mascherano would transfer to Liverpool and begin to set the world alight. The 147-capped Argentina international settled on Merseyside as quick as Pep Guardiola would settle in a Stone Island shop, forming an intricate midfield understanding with Alonso and Gerrard. Holding the fort further back, Mascherano’s sweeping, defensive work freed Gerrard further up the pitch, allowing the Liverpool skipper to wreak havoc in the final third and produce multiple trademark ‘worldies’.
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Central midfield: Philippe Coutinho
A player Gerrard has both played with and managed, Philippe Coutinho truly was a special talent during his time at Liverpool, and he is still a big fan of the Brazilian. Speaking of his signing for Aston Villa recently, Gerrard said: “He is an outstanding footballer who boasts a highly impressive CV laced with plenty of elite honours. He is a player I enjoyed playing with previously and I know the rest of the squad here at Aston Villa will benefit from his quality and experience.”
Forward: Luis Suarez
Just as Alonso was the “best midfielder” Gerrard ever played alongside, Suarez was the best player, according to the man himself. “I don’t think anyone ever looks forward to playing against Luis Suarez, he is a fantastic talent and a very dangerous player. Probably the best player I have played with,” Gerrard commented in 2015. A supreme scoring talent who could turn it on in the blink of an eye, Suarez transfixed terraces up and down the land. Rumours of his return have probably given Norwich fans the thousand-yard stare this month. They’d probably welcome relegation with open arms if it meant they could avoid a Suarez onslaught next term.
Forward: Fernando Torres
It all went a bit pear-shaped in the end for Fernando Torres, but when he was in his pomp at Anfield, there was arguably no greater sight than seeing him latch on to one of Gerrard’s laser-guided through balls before bursting the back of the net. It’s an iconic snapshot, one up there with Romario’s cow’s tail or Johan’s Cruyff turn, and despite the burning effigies, there can be no denying Torres was a sensation during his Anfield days. If Alonso and Gerrard had a near-telepathic understanding, then Gerrard and Torres had some sort of sixth-sense relationship. If only the Spaniard kept injury-free throughout 2008/09, then Liverpool may well have pipped fierce rivals Manchester United to the Premier League title.
Forward: Michael Owen
Gerrard really has been blessed with a plethora of brilliant forwards and the third is Michael Owen. Ballon d’Or winner, Michael Owen. Sports Personality of the Year winner, Michael Owen (in case Emma Raducanu didn’t know). Before Owen became something of an internet meme, and an ex-Liverpool player who went to Manchester United, the English forward was banging in goals for fun at Anfield and helped them win their treble of 2000/01, scoring twice in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal and also setting up Gerrard in the UEFA Cup victory over Alaves.