Complementing my earlier article on Liverpool’s Greatest BRITISH XI of all time, the following eleven players represent the Reds’ finest imported players. So without further ado, I give you Liverpool’s Greatest Foreign XI of all time…
Jose Manuel Reina (Goalkeeper)
LFC Career: 2005 – Present
Honours: 1 FA Cup
Current Liverpool custodian Jose Manuel ‘Pepe’ Reina, son of former Spanish international Miguel Reina, has proven himself to be one of the world’s finest goalkeepers since moving to Anfield in the summer of 2005. Labelled “the best goalkeeper in Spain” by former manager Rafael Benitez upon his arrival at the club, Reina has managed to bring a level of calm and assuredness to the Reds’ rearguard not seen since the days of Ray Clemence. Blessed with unrivalled shot-stopping and distribution abilities, the charismatic Spaniard has claimed four Golden Glove awards in five of his seasons on Merseyside, as well as becoming the fastest goalkeeper to achieve 100 clean sheets in the club’s history. The goalkeeper has been touted by many as a future captain of the club; such is his love and affection for Liverpool.
Markus Babbel (Right-back)
LFC Career: 2000-2004
Honours: 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, 1 UEFA Cup
Despite featuring less than 100 times for Liverpool, German full-back Markus Babbel retains a special place amongst the hearts of Reds fans. A classy, cultured, attacking right-back, Babbel performed with great distinction during Liverpool’s treble-winning season of 2001, with the German scoring the opening goal in the UEFA Cup final of that year against Alaves. Babbel also managed to score against arch-rivals Everton during that season, cementing his reputation in Anfield folklore. Despite fighting his way back from a crippling virus that saw him sidelined for an entire season, Babbel was unable to recapture his previous form and left Anfield for Stuttgart in the summer of 2004.
Sami Hyypia (Centre-back)
LFC Career: 1999-2009
Honours: 2 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 1 European Cup, 1 UEFA Cup
Regarded by most as former manager Gerard Houllier’s finest signing, the £2.5m paid to Dutch side Willem II in 1999 now looks like one of the biggest bargains of the last 20 years. Epitomizing consistency and class, the big Finn was a rock at the heart of Liverpool’s defence for the best part of ten years, forming tremendous partnerships with Stephane Henchoz and Jamie Carragher. A cornerstone of Liverpool’s historic treble of 2001, Hyypia also had a knack of scoring crucial goals in Europe, most notably a sweetly-struck volley against Juventus in 2005 and a towering header against Arsenal in 2008. Currently plying his trade at Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, many expect Hyypia to return to Anfield in a coaching capacity at some time in the future.
Mark Lawrenson (Centre-back)
LFC Career: 1981-1988
Honours: 5 League Titles, 1 FA Cup, 3 League Cups, 1 European Cup
Despite being born in England, ‘Lawro’ qualifies for this team due to the fact he represented Republic of Ireland at international level. Signed from Brighton in 1981 for a (then) club record transfer fee of £900,000, Lawro went on to form half of one of the most impenetrable defensive partnerships of his day with Alan Hansen. Complementing Hansen’s elegance with considerable strength, the Eire international enjoyed a gloriously trophy-laden spell at Anfield. The former Brighton man’s finest moments at Liverpool include a resolute performance against Roma in the 1984 European Cup Final, and a terrific display against Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup Final of 1986. Whilst Lawro’s punditry ‘qualities’ divide opinion, his footballing credentials certainly don’t.
John Arne Riise (Left-back)
LFC Career: 2001-2008
Honours: 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, 1 European Cup
Armed with arguably the most explosive left-foot in the modern game, Norwegian left-back (and sometime left-midfielder) John Arne Riise enthralled Reds fans during his seven-year stint at Anfield. Signed from French side Monaco, Riise swiftly became a fan favourite after a thunderous free-kick against fierce rivals Manchester United three months after his arrival. The flame-haired full-back played his part in Liverpool’s thrilling Champions League Final comeback of 2005, providing the cross from which Steven Gerrard headed Liverpool’s first goal. In addition to scoring the fast goal in League Cup Final history (after 45 seconds against Chelsea in 2005), Riise managed to convert a successful penalty in the side’s FA Cup Final shootout with West Ham United in 2006.
Patrik Berger (Left-midfield)
LFC Career: 1996-2003
Honours: 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups, 1 UEFA Cup
Like Riise (above), former Czech international was revered by Reds fans for his powerful left-foot. Berger was an instant hit upon his arrival in the summer of 1996, managing to score five goals in his first four appearances for the club. Berger’s finest moments at the club include a hat-trick against Chelsea in his second season at Anfield, and a superb free-kick against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but he is probably best remembered for the exquisite pass that set up Michael Owen’s last-gasp winner against Arsenal in the 2001 FA Cup Final.
Dietmar Hamann (Centre-midfield)
LFC Career: 1999-2006
Honours: 2 FA Cups, 2 League Cup, 1 European Cup, 1 UEFA Cup
After impressing at fellow Premier League side Newcastle United in 1998/99, Hamann made the short trip south to Liverpool, where he became one of the club’s most influential players of the early 2000s. ‘Didi’ was a classy defensive midfielder, skilled at shielding the defence and nullifying opposition threats. Although famed for his spectacular long-range shooting (he won Premier League Goal of the Season for a strike against Portsmouth in 2003/04), Hamann’s Anfield tenure is best remembered by his contribution to the club’s successful Champions League Final win of 2005. Hamann’s second-half introduction was considered to be the catalyst for the club’s historic comeback, a fact made more impressive by the fact that Didi was nursing a broken toe at the time.
Jan Molby (Centre-midfield)
LFC Career: 1984-1996
Honours: 2 League titles, 2 FA Cups
Signed from Ajax in the wake of Graeme Souness’s Anfield exit, Jan Molby is considered by many to be the finest passer of the ball in Liverpool’s history. ‘The Great Dane’ made up for his lack of pace with his breathtaking technique and vision, skills supplemented by his unrivalled short and long-range passing abilities. ‘Big Jan’ was a confident and assured penalty-taker, with the former Denmark international missing just 3 from 45 spot-kicks for the Anfield side. Despite suffering from a spate of injuries in the middle and latter parts of his Liverpool career, Molby is still fondly remembered by Reds fans.
Ronnie Whelan (Centre-midfield)
LFC Career: 1979-1994
Honours: 6 League titles, 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 1 European Cup
Versatile midfielder Ronnie Whelan was a staple during Liverpool’s 1980s’ heyday. Arriving from Irish minnows Home Farm for the paltry fee of £35,000 in 1979, Whelan paid his dues in the side’s reserve team before establishing himself as a first-team regular in 1981/82. A versatile operator, Whelan had a penchant for spectacular goals, a proclivity demonstrated by a goal scored against Manchester United in the 1983 League Cup final. Injuries to Alan Hansen meant that Whelan was awarded captaincy in 1988/89, and the Irishman skippered the side to another league championship title in 1989/90.
Ray Houghton (Right-midfield)
LFC Career: 1987-1992
Honours: 2 League titles, 2 FA Cups
Glasgow-born former Eire international Ray Houghton was a key component of Liverpool’s title-winning sides of the late 1980s. A hardworking and energetic player, Houghton chipped in with his fair share of goals and assists as Liverpool claimed the 1978/88 and 1989/90 league championship titles. Often overshadowed by team-mates Aldridge, Barnes and Beardsley, Houghton’s contributions to the side were of great importance; speaking of Houghton, former Liverpool colleague Steve Nicol said, “He was someone that you wouldn’t have realised how good he was unless you played with him.”
Fernando Torres (Striker)
LFC Career: 2007 – Present
The current darling of the Kop, Liverpool’s current number nine Fernando Torres has already managed to write himself into Anfield folklore. After scoring on his full home debut against Premier League rivals Chelsea, ‘El Niño’ managed to notch up 24 league goals in his first season on Merseyside, setting a new record for the most goals scored by a foreign player in their debut Premier League season. Forming a dream partnership with Reds skipper Steven Gerrard, Torres continued to smash records, and a stoppage-time winner against Aston Villa in December 2009 meant that El Niño became the fastest player to score 50 league goals in Liverpool’s history (eclipsing the likes of Rush, Dalglish, Fowler and Hunt in the process). Still only 26, the best is still yet to come from Fernando Torres, an exciting prospect for Liverpool fans and a terrifying one for fans of all other teams.
Any glaring omissions! Let me know below… (or on twitter)
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