Liverpool XIs: Premier League-era players for whom the grass is greener on the other side

Right now Liverpool FC are reigning European and world champions, meaning they are one of the best club sides in world football. You run out of superlatives to describe this Liverpool side, but of course this wasn’t always the case.

In my lifetime, Liverpool have gone full circle from European champions to mid-table strugglers and now back to the top once again. In this cycle, a whole host of players have come and gone, many of whom have come to regret leaving Anfield.

With this being said, there are a handful of players who have reaped the rewards since leaving Merseyside and as a result now have a heftier trophy cabinet and a more successful career to look back on.

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So, without further ado, this is the best XI of players whose careers have ultimately benefited from leaving Liverpool. Note, this selection is based solely on achievements since leaving the club and not individual performances.

GK: Péter Gulácsi

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He never made a competitive appearance for Liverpool, but it counts. 

Hungary’s No.1 was contracted to the Reds between 2008 and 2013 and was loaned out to three clubs in that period — Hereford United, Tranmere Rovers and Hull City. 

At the time, not much was expected of the 6ft 3in shot-stopper but a free transfer in the summer of 2013 to Austrian outfit RB Salzburg set him up to become one of the best goalkeepers in Europe right now.

During his time in Austria, Gulácsi claimed two Austrian Bundesliga as well as two Austrian Cups before being snapped up by sister club RB Leipzig in 2015 for a paltry £3m fee. 

Since signing for Leipzig the Hungarian has nailed down a starting spot for one of Europe’s up-and-coming sides, making 170 appearances for the club, keeping 51 clean sheets and becoming one of the finest keepers in the division. 

An honourable mention for Brad Jones, who was contracted to Liverpool for five years between 2010 and 2015 where he spent the majority of his time as second fiddle to both Pepe Reina and Simon Mignolet. 

The Australian served the Reds well but has had more joy since leaving the Reds, claiming an Eredivisie title, KNVB Cup and a Johan Cruyff Shield with Feyenoord as well as a Saudi Professional League Title and a Saudi Super Cup with current employers Al-Nassr.

RB: Álvaro Arbeloa

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Some players in this XI were hard to pick — Álvaro Arbeloa was not one of them. The Spaniard spent two years at Liverpool between 2007 and 2009 before departing for Real Madrid, where his trophy cabinet was well and truly stocked. 

At Liverpool the wing-back earned a UEFA Champions League runners-up medal. At the Santiago Bernabéu, however, Arbeloa claimed:

  • 1 x La Liga 
  • 2 x Copa Del Rey 
  • 1 x Supercopa de España
  • 2 x UEFA Champions League 
  • 1 x UEFA Super Cup 
  • 1 x FIFA Club World Cup

The Spaniard was contracted to Real for seven years until 2016 and made 238 appearances for Los Merengues in that time. 

In addition to his club exploits, Arbeloa also tasted international success post-Liverpool in the form of a FIFA World Cup and a UEFA European Championship with Spain.

CB: Javier Mascherano

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Another addition which picked itself, Javier Mascherano slots into this XI at centre back due to the fact that it’s where the Argentine found himself most often during the most successful spell of his career with FC Barcelona. 

Gracing the fields of Anfield from 2007 to 2010, Mascherano was a feisty destroyer that was irreplaceable for a long time following his €24m move to the Camp Nou. 

Transformed into a ball playing central defender upon his arrival at the Catalan club, the Argentine spent eight years at the Camp Nou claiming: 

  • 5 x La Liga 
  • 5 x Copa del Rey 
  • 3 x Supercopa de España
  • 2 x UEFA Champions League 
  • 2 x UEFA Super Cup 
  • 2 x FIFA Club World Cup

Mascherano made 334 appearances for Barcelona, scoring one goal and assisting eight times, before taking his career to China and signing for Hebei China Fortune in January 2018. After a year and a half in Asia, Mascherano has now returned to Argentina following his transfer to Estudiantes in January 2020.

CB: Emre Can

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Bear with me — there is a serious lack of centre backs who have left Liverpool and gone on to bigger and better things. To that end, Emre Can, a midfielder currently plying his trade at Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund, can often be found deputising in central defence and as result slots in next to Mascherano. 

Having only left the Reds in the summer of 2018, Emre Can has not had long to carve himself out a more successful career post-Liverpool. That said, Can’s time on Merseyside saw the German claim three runners medals in the League Cup, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League, so it wasn’t hard for him to improve on that. 

Signing on a free to Italian giants Juventus, Emre Can was at least guaranteed to win at least one trophy a year with the Old Lady due to the club’s monopoly over Italian football. 

In fact, his switch to Italy saw the German claim one Serie A and one Supercoppa Italiana in a first season that saw him register 37 appearances for the Turin based club. 

Despite having arguably played the best football of his career at Anfield, the German has no doubt been more successful since leaving Merseyside and now has the chance to finally deliver on his promising potential following a permanent move to Lucien Favre’s BVB earlier this year.

LB: Emiliano Insúa

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Emiliano Insúa joined Liverpool in 2007 from Argentine outfit Boca Juniors in a deal that saw Gabriel Paletta move the other way. 

The left-back made 62 appearances for the Reds before departing in 2011 for Portuguese outfit Sporting Lisbon. Insúa would then go on to make 66 appearances for Sporting Club before his €3.5m move to Atlético Madrid in 2013 which would grant the defender the most successful spell of his career. 

Having been trophyless prior to his stint in Spain, Insua’s time with Diego Simeone’s Atleéti would see him go on to claim a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey and a Supercopa de España. The Argentine also claimed a UEFA Champions League runners up medal.

His career since his time at the Vicente Calderón has somewhat stalled however the 30-year-old left back, who now plies his trade with LA Galaxy, also added a 2.Bundesliga title to his list honours following a successful promotion campaign with VfB Stuttgart in 2016/17.

CDM: Lucas Leiva

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One of Liverpool’s most loyal servants, Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva spent 10 years at Anfield making 346 appearances for the Reds before a move to Italian outfit Lazio in 2017. 

Having claimed only a League Cup during his time with Liverpool, the three years since his transfer to the Roman outfit has seen him win the Coppa Italia as well as two Supercoppa Italiana’s. 

In addition to this, the central defensive midfielder who was awarded the Liverpool player of the year in 2011, has also won both Lazio player of the season awards since joining, though Liverpool fans hijacking the all-important Twitter polls may have had something to do with this…

CM: Xabi Alonso

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As was the case with Messrs Arbeloa and Mascherano, Xabi Alonso’s accomplishments after leaving Anfield speak for themselves, making him an easy inclusion in this XI. 

Despite having won a Community Shield, an FA Cup, a UEFA Champions League and a UEFA Super Cup with Liverpool, the Spaniard’s career after leaving Anfield saw him line-up for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, two absolute giants of football. 

Joining Liverpool in 2004, Alonso made 210 appearances for Liverpool before his £30m departure in 2009 to Real Madrid. The Spaniard spent five years in the Spanish capital making 236 appearances before a 2014 move to Bayern Munich. 

Aside from his international accomplishments with Spain which saw him win a World Cup and a European Championship Alonso also claimed: 

  • 1 x La Liga
  • 2 x Copa del Rey
  • 1 x Supercopa de España
  • 1 x UEFA Champions League
  • 3 x Bundesliga
  • 1 x DFB Pokal
  • 1 x DFL Supercup

Although a superstar in his own right at Anfield, it can be argued that Alonso’s best football came at either the Bernabéu or the Allianz, with the Spaniard breaking the record for most touches in a single Bundelsiga match in his debut season with Bayern.

CM: Raul Meireles

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Despite having only been at Liverpool for one season, when I think of Raul Meireles I picture him in a Liverpool shirt doing one of two things.

Firstly he is either scoring the only goal of the game against Chelsea in what was Fernando Torres’ first match after completing a transfer to Stamford Bridge days earlier — legend — or, even more impressively, smashing in a looping volley against Wolves. You know the one I’m talking about, and if you don’t then look it up. You will not regret it.

Prior to his £11.5m move to Anfield in August 2010, the former Portugal international had already claimed four Primeira Liga’s and was a three-time Taca de Portugal winner with FC Porto.

At the time, his transfer to Liverpool was definitely met with excitement as he had proven to be an experienced midfielder with a knack for scoring goals. In fact, Meireles came good on his potential as he featured 44 times for the Reds, scoring five goals and assisting six in his debut season.

Unfortunately for Liverpool, the squad was in its cycle of being bang average and, having just acquired Fernando Torres, Chelsea were not done in poaching Liverpool’s shining stars and thus snapped him up in August 2011 for £12m.

Although he only spent one season at Stamford Bridge, Meireles’ move to London couldn’t have been better timed from his point of view as he formed part of the squad that claimed an FA Cup success and, more notably, Chelsea’s first ever UEFA Champions League crown.

A year later Meireles was shipped out yet again this time to Turkish club Fenerbahce for a fee in the region of £8m, where he spent the last four seasons of his career.

Racking up 105 appearances and providing 20 goal contributions in the process, the former Portuguese star would go on to add three more trophies to his cabinet in the form of one Turkish Super Lig, one Turkish Cup and a Turkish Super Cup.

CAM: Luis Alberto

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a few people probably still don’t rate Luis Alberto, but I reckon you will very soon. The boy is well on his way to becoming a superstar at his current club Lazio with top clubs such as Juventus reportedly circling for his signature. 

The 27-year-old advanced midfielder has come a long way since his three-year spell on the books at Anfield and has now become a player that Klopp would surely have got some use out of. 

Arriving at Anfield for a £6.8m fee in June 2013 from Sevilla, Alberto would go on to make only 12 appearances for the Reds in three years due to two loan spells to Malaga and Deportivo La Coruńa respectively in that time.

Despite showing glimpses of class while on loan in Spain, in 2016 the Reds accepted a £3.6m offer from Lazio and Alberto hasn’t looked back since.

Prior to his move to Rome, the midfielder was yet to taste domestic success. However, his four years in the Italian capital has seen him claim a Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana’s, thus making him eligible from this side.

Only 27 years of age, the Spaniard has also earned his first senior cap for Spain since his switch to Italy and, with Lazio flying high in Serie A, can hope to taste more silverware before hanging up his boots.

ST: Luis Suárez

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Nothing describes Luis Suárez better than the term ‘win at all costs’.

Love him or loathe him — as Liverpool fans we’ve done both — Suárez was amazing at Liverpool and almost single-handedly dragged us to a Premier League title. Unfortunately for the Reds, we are only just about to lift the trophy whereas Suárez has gone on to taste success in every sense of the word.

Having only tasted success in the form of a League Cup whilst at Anfield, the bar wasn’t exactly set high when he completed his £64.98m transfer to Catalonia. Since, Suárez can boast:

  • 4 x La Liga 
  • 4 x Copa del Rey 
  • 2 x Supercopa de España
  • 1 x UEFA Champions League 
  • 1 x UEFA Super Cup
  • 1 x FIFA Club World Cup 

His achievements since leaving Liverpool are undeniable, the Uruguayan certainly benefited from leaving Anfield. The craziest thing for me is that, not only did his trophy cabinet become significantly more impressive, so did his performances as he went supernova alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar.

ST: Fernando Torres

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Time for the aforementioned inclusion of Fernando Torres, and I’m still gutted we never got to see him and Suárez lineup together for Liverpool with Gerrard in behind. 

Anyway, no-one can argue the fact that, at Anfield, Torres played the best football of his career. At Liverpool he was arguably the best and most feared striker in world football. 

His partnership with Gerrard was essentially a madness and his numbers were equally impressive. The Spaniard made 142 appearances for the Reds and scored 81 goals and provided 20 assists. 

Performances against Chelsea in particular, scoring seven, were so good in fact that, despite injuries taking their toll on the player, they persuaded Roman Abramovich to shell out £50m for El Niño in January 2011 and off he went to Stamford. 

Despite never again performing as impressively as he did for Liverpool, Torres’ trophy cabinet has certainly benefited from his time away from Merseyside, with the Spaniard claiming an FA Cup, a UEFA Champions League and a UEFA Europa League during his time in London. 

The Spaniard also tasted international success in the form of a second European Championship with Spain after leaving Liverpool, and upon returning to boyhood club Atletico Madrid in 2015 earned himself another UEFA Europa League winners medal. 

What do you think? Have we left anyone out that you think should be included? Let us know in the comments!

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Matthew Ramirez

Podcast regular and match reporter. Gibraltarian of many opinions and defender of Jordan Henderson.

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