The story of a difficult era for Liverpool – Anfield’s ‘Wasted Potential’ XI

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By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez

Liverpool needing to win their final group game in the Champions League to qualify for the last 16… we’ve been here before.

This time around we didn’t have Steven Gerrard to latch onto a “lovely cushioned header” and send Andy Gray into absolute delirium. The 1-0 win over Napoli this time around was certainly as much of a nail-biting affair, and it took a massive save from Alisson to help us through.

Either way, although it looked all doom and gloom going into the match against Olympiakos, the Reds pulled through and ended up winning the whole competition in stunning fashion against AC Milan.

It is popular opinion around Merseyside, that our 2005 Champions League winning team was certainly nothing to shout about quality wise – *cough cough*, looking at you Djimi. With this in mind I take a look at what I believe Liverpool’s Wasted Potential XI, from 2005 to now.

Manager – Roy Hodgson (4-3-3):

Hodgson lasted six months and week at Liverpool before being replaced by club favourite Kenny Dalglish. It can be argued that Hodgson shouldn’t have been anywhere near the job in the first place, yes, he had just taken Fulham to the UEFA Cup final, but in truth he was far from an outstanding manager.

The former England manager took over from the departing Rafael Benitez, and instead of winning a major trophy in his first season like the Spaniard did, Hodgson instead signed Paul Konchesky and sold Javier Mascherano – that’s literally all he did of note.

GK – Loris Karius:

Before anyone accuses me of jumping on the bandwagon and slating this poor lad, let me just say I’m not. What happened to Karius in the final against Madrid was unfortunate and it could have literally happened to anyone – ultimately the guy didn’t mean to make the mistakes, it just happened.

And regardless of whether or not you believe the fact that he was concussed, ultimately the fact remains that he’s human, he’s going to make mistakes, unfortunately for him though, it came in the biggest stage of his career when the whole world was watching.

With that being said he can be seen as wasted potential. He’s now on a two-year loan to Besiktas JK in Turkey after being booted down the pecking order thanks to the arrival of Alisson Becker. Karius was signed by Jürgen Klopp in the summer of 2016 for less than £5 million – which is an absolute bargain given the performances he was consistently giving while at Mainz 05.

In his final season in the Bundesliga, Karius was voted as the second-best goalkeeper in the League by his fellow Bundesliga players. He was pipped to the number one spot by Manuel Neuer, who actually voted for Karius in the rankings.

Due to this, and the dwindling performances of Simon Mignolet, Karius arrived on Merseyside with the hopes of fans already on his shoulders.

It took him until January 2018 to finally dislodge Mignolet and nail down a starting spot and if we’re honest, he did a really good job. He was an all-round solid goalkeeper and looked comfortable on the ball, saving us points at one end and starting attacks with his distribution.

Before the Champions League Final, many Liverpool fans (if they’re being honest), would have been more than happy for Karius to stay on as our first-choice keeper this season, however, now the only thing associated with the German is his performance in the final and its highly unlikely he will never be seen in a Liverpool jersey again.

RB – Glen Johnson:

I feel like this is going to be a controversial entry, but to be honest I never rated our Glen. Going forward he was decent, but in defence, which I may add is what we signed him to do, he was shocking, he might as well not have been there.

Johnson was signed by Benitez in his final year as Liverpool boss, for a fee of £17.5 million from Portsmouth in the Summer of 2009. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot of money in today’s market, but in 2009 £17.5 million for a right back (that couldn’t defend) was astronomical – we bought Fernando Torres (a machine of a goalscorer) only two summers earlier for £2.5 million more….

Anyways, Johnson arrived at Anfield an initially made a good impression, scoring a goal, assisting and winning the man of the match award against Stoke – note that those are all attacking exploits.

He set the bar pretty high for himself and didn’t really match them again, yes, on occasion he’d score a worldie and we’d all start to think that maybe he was worth having around. NO. HE COULDN’T DEFEND.

CB – Sebastian Coates:

If you look at Seb Coates now you’d think that Liverpool were fools for letting him go, the lad has turned his career now and he’s bossing it in Portugal with Sporting CP – he’s actually an absolute beast of a defender.

Much like Johnson, Coates couldn’t really defend during his time at Anfield, however he was only a teenager, so it was to be expected that he would struggle – however, he did score an absolute WORLDIE against QPR, scoring an overhead kick… he’s a 6ft 5in lumbering CB and he smashed in an overhead kick yes.

It does seem a little bit harsh including him on this list because he was hardly trash, but the reasoning for his inclusion is due to the fact that he arrived with such potential and such expectation that Sporting Lisbon are now benefitting from, not the Reds.

CB – Tiago Ilori:

Did you know he once won a race against Ronaldo…

He arrived with such potential, being hailed as the next Pepe, so imagine all our excitement with his signing. He was at Liverpool for four years, never made a League appearance, got sent out on three loan spells (not making more than 20 appearances across all loans) and was sold to Reading last season – he’s literally further away from making an appearance for the Portuguese national team than Eusebio.

If this doesn’t count as wasted potential, then I don’t know what does.

LB – Alberto Moreno:

Ahh, our Albert. Little Alberto, I’ve written about you not being good enough before… the annoying thing is though you were actually tipped for greatness.

Signed in the Summer of 2014 for a reported £12 million, Moreno was one of nine signings by Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool looked to improve on their squad after the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

Moreno came to Anfield hot off the heels of success both at club level and internationally, winning the Europa League with Sevilla and the U-23 European Championships with Spain the season prior – picking up a senior national cap in the process too.

The Spaniard started well, scoring against Tottenham Hotspur in only his second game for the club and quickly secured his place in the first XI at Anfield – in fact he picked up the most appearances than any of our other defenders in his first season in a Liverpool shirt (36).

Unfortunately for the Spaniard, he is more renowned for his attacking capabilities than his defensive. This came to light in the 2015/16 Europa League final against Sevilla, in which he had an absolute shocker of a game and received wide criticism, with many blaming the defender for our defeat – to add insult to injury he ended up losing his starting role at left back to James Milner the following season.

With this being said, the Spaniard did manage to improve last season, and had a bit of a renaissance, even being called up to the Spanish National team again. However, a lacklustre performance in the Champions League against Sevilla (yes, them again) saw him dropped from the XI and replaced by Andrew Robertson.

Moreno came to Anfield with so much promise, he was touted as Spain’s next rising star, the heir to Jordi Alba, and was being linked with a multitude of clubs, including Liverpool rivals Manchester United. Much was made about his attacking ability, and to be fair to the lad he always looks a threat going forward. However, much like fellow wing back Glen Johnson, it is his defence attributes (or lack of), that warrant his inclusion in this line-up.

CM – Alberto Aquilani:

The heir to Xabi Alonso – pretty big boots to fill and instant pressure.

Aquilani was a quality player both before and after his time at Liverpool, but whilst at the club he failed to set Anfield alight, failing to live up the ever-growing shadow of Alonso.

He was signed by Benitez for around £20 million, and lasted only one season at Anfield before being loaned out by Roy Hodgson – who chose to play Joe Cole and Christian Poulsen instead of giving the Italian a chance.

Ultimately, it’s my opinion that Aquilani wasn’t given enough time to breakthrough and show his quality at Anfield, he was held in high regard at Roma and around the Italian national team prior to his arrival and should he have been given the time to settle and develop I believe he could have become world class.

CM – Joe Allen:

Brendan Rodgers just had to go and call him the Welsh Xavi – wow that’s instant pressure from the manager.

Allen didn’t arrive at Liverpool with us expecting too much, but then you hear the manager say this and well your expectation grows and unfortunately, he failed to live up to it.

Allen was by no means an awful player, but the fact that he’s now slumming it in the Championship tells you all you need to know – only 28 though, still time for Barcelona to snap him up.

CAM – Luis Alberto:

Much like Aquilani, Luis Alberto was never really given much of a chance at Anfield and was relegated to the loan heap, being shipped out to Malaga and Deportivo La Coruña before ultimately being sold to Lazio in 2016.

Since joining Lazio, the young Spaniard has blown up and has since won the Supercoppa Italiana and been called up to the Spanish national team. Like Coates, it seems harsh to include him given his young age whilst at Anfield, but due to the fact a club other than Liverpool are benefiting from his brilliance it means he gets a starting spot here.

FW – Ryan Babel:

There was ridiculous amounts of hype surrounding this guy when he first joined Liverpool back in 2007. The then 20-year-old arrived from Ajax for fee believed to be around £12 million.

The youngster was already a fully capped Dutch international and was expected to be a future Ballon D’or contender. Unlike many of the players selected above, Babel was given plenty of time at Anfield, spending four years with the club and not going on loan once.

The winger, who could be played down the middle, was once even praised by Kenny Dalglish who said that youngster possessed the pace and trickery to terrorise any defence.

Unfortunately for Babel, it was his work ethic and attitude more than anything which seemed to let him down, unable to put together a consistent run of form, the Dutchman was eventually shipped out to 1899 Hoffenheim in January of 2011.

Since leaving Liverpool in 2011, Babel has played for six other clubs, with his most recent being Besikats which he joined in the Summer of 2017. Still at the club and now playing alongside Karius, Babel has forced himself back into the Netherlands national side.

He never hit the heights many believed he would at Liverpool and failed to live up to the hype for the rest of his career, its frightening to think of what could have been for Ryan Babel.

FW – Robbie Keane:

Robbie Keane is a former captain of the Republic of Ireland and is what you would call a serial goalscorer. Unfortunately for the Irish hit-man, he wasn’t given enough time at Anfield – something which has become somewhat of a trend in this list.

Keane was signed by Benitez in the summer of 2008 for a fee in the region of £20 million in an attempt to take some of the goal-scoring pressure off of Fernando Torres. Keane managed five goals in 16 league appearances for Liverpool before being sold back to Tottenham SIX MONTHS LATER, for a £7 million loss.

This is a player who notched 313 club goals in 708 appearances, and 68 goals in 146 appearances for Ireland – leaving him with a ratio of a goal every 2.2 games and 14th in the Premier League all-time top goal-scorers chart.

Although he can be looked at as wasted potential due to the fact that his performances and numbers at Liverpool weren’t to his regular standards, I believe the management is more at fault here and should have given Keane more time to settle into his new surroundings and into his new team.

Something else to consider, is that this was the season where he came second in the League to Manchester United by 4 points. In the games following Keane’s departure we drew twice and lost once, meaning that although we’ll never know what could have happened, it is possible to think that having Robbie Keane on the pitch may have given Liverpool the extra fire power they needed to earn the points to win the league.

FW – Iago Aspas:

Ahh the man all Liverpool fans love… to hate.

There’s not much to say about Aspas, he spent two seasons at Anfield, played 14 times, didn’t score once and went on loan to Sevilla before being sold back to the club we bought him from. Oh yeah, and there was that whole little corner incident… GRRR

Aspas was signed from Celta Vigo in 2013 for a fee in the region of £8 million. Before signing for Liverpool he’d netted 46 times in 139 games for Celta, and since resigning for the club in 2015 he’s netted 63 times in 113 games for the Galician outfit. Aspas has also gone on to earn himself multiple call ups to the Spanish National Team, earning 17 caps and netting six times.

Considering his goal-scoring form either-side of his transfer to Liverpool, it’s clear the man knows where the net is. Whether again he wasn’t given enough time or whether he wasn’t suited to the style of the Premier League, Aspas was unable to recreate his impressive form for the Anfield faithful and will forever have Liverpool fans wondering why on earth he took that corner.

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