David N’Gog was always on for a rough deal at Liverpool, so it’s somewhat surprising that the Frenchman clocked up almost 100 competitive appearances for the club in his three seasons on the banks of the River Mersey.
Signed from Paris Saint-Germain as a teenager ahead of the 2008/09 season – coincidentally one of the Reds’ best in recent memory – he was brought in as one of the options to back up Fernando Torres, an unenviable task, it has to be said. Granted, ‘El Nino’ spent a lot of time on the treatment table, but when fit he was Rafa Benitez’s man, there was no debate, and with a one-striker system in place, opportunities were always going to be fleeting and ultimately fruitless for N’Gog. Alas, he developed cult hero status among sections of the club’s supporters, despite the fact he was a fairly limited footballer.
6’3”, wiry and without the sort of pace many top forwards have to compensate for lack of pure brawn, he was a bit of a nothing footballer. That may seem a little harsh, but N’Gog had no standout trait, no unique selling point and rather summed up the distance between Liverpool and their major league rivals of the time. 2008/09 saw Manchester United out-run Benitez’s side to secure the Premier League title, and while the Merseysiders had to lean on their French youngster during the times their first choice attacker was out, Sir Alex Ferguson must have been chuckling given he had Dimitar Berbatov in reserve.
N’Gog did what he could when called upon and 19 goals in three seasons given he was still very young at the time in not to be sniffed at, especially when you consider two of those came in the Champions League – the pinnacle of club football – and others against Manchester United and Arsenal – the latter (below) was a cracker, too.
Even when Torres moved on in January 2011, Luis Suarez came into the squad in his place, and under the third manager of his Anfield career, Kenny Dalglish, the striker was allowed to move on. His potential led to a move to Bolton, with whom he was relegated, before a brief reappearance in the top tier with Swansea at the back end of 2013/14, but with the end of that campaign came the end of N’Gog’s English adventure.
Stade de Reims took him on in Ligue 1, but his mission back in his homeland never truly got going, with the same issues that had plagued his career rearing their head once again. It wasn’t that N’Gog was a poor player or that he didn’t put in the hard yards, it was always that missing spark that cost him and with just ten goals for the side from Northern France in two campaigns, the exit door opened once again, taking him to Greece.
It comes as somewhat of a surprise to see that the ex-Liverpool man has only turned 28 today. Given that it feels an eternity ago he was at Anfield, the fact he’s in what many consider a footballers peak years is strange. And he seems to have settled at last. By no means a guaranteed starter at Panionios in the Greek Super League, N’Gog is part of a side that trails only perennial champions Olympiakos at the summit of the division, putting them well on course for a campaign of Europa League football.
Seemingly always a victim of circumstance, as well as his own shortcomings, seeing the former France U-21 international back in major European competition would bring a warm feeling for Kopites. He may never have been truly good enough, but that does not mean he was not loved.