After 737 appearances, Jamie Carragher has called time on his playing career. An incredible servant for Liverpool FC, the Scouse defender spent 17 years of his life at the club, winning the FA Cup, UEFA Cup, League Cup and of course the Champions League. Liverpool’s player of the year on 3 occasions, ‘Carra’ will go down in the club’s record books for making the most appearances in European competitions for Liverpool, and as the second-longest serving player ever at the club.
He played alongside some of the greats for Liverpool, including McManaman, Barnes, Fowler, Gerrard, and fellow centre-back Sami Hyypia. The big Fin signed for the team he supported as a boy back in 1999, for just £2.5million. From there he made his name in European football, creating a strong partnership with Stephan Henchoz, and then famously with Carragher. Together the pair become often unstoppable, and were crucial in Liverpool’s Champions League success in 2005. In 2009 Hyypia was voted as Goal.com’s Central Defender of the Decade, as he left the Reds after 10 incredible years at the club.
With 2 legendary defenders now leaving the club in the space of 4 years, the pressure is on Daniel Agger to step up to the mark. Since joining the Anfield side in 2006, the Denmark captain has become a fans favourite, and one of the fist names on the manager’s team sheet. Agger showed great promise when he joined, and has continued to become an important defender for Liverpool. The Dane enjoyed a formidable partnership with Martin Skrtel last season, and is now the club’s longest serving centre-back in the squad.
After signing a 2-year contract extension, Agger has set his sights in following the footsteps of Carragher and Hyypia by becoming a major defender in the club’s history. The bar has been set pretty high, and one of the first things the Danish defender will need to do is somehow shrug off his injury prone status. According to physioroom.com, Agger has endured over 20 injuries in his 6-year spell at Anfield, which has led to questions over how many games the centre-back will be able to manage in an entire season.
However, it seems Agger has made some progress this year, playing in 35 of Liverpool’s league games this campaign. He missed the last two matches of the season as he underwent pro-active surgery to strengthen the condition of his back. The most league appearances managed in one season by Agger, it seems the defender may have finally found his true fitness levels.
The Danish centre-back has a rocket of a left foot, and has scored some terrific goals in his Anfield career. Focused and composed in possession, Agger has suited Brendan Rodgers’ style of play. But the 28-year-old has at times been prone to over-committing to a tackle, whether on his feet or sliding in, and has left gaps behind him in defence. Agger will need to become a rock in defence, often making last ditch tackles and goal-line clearances, in order to reach the similar status of Carragher and Hyypia.
Agger has a similar goal scoring threat to the big Fin too. At 6ft 5” tall, Hyypia was always a threat from set pieces, scoring some important headers for the club. His header against Arsenal in the 2007 Champions League quarter-final was nearly as good as his volley against Juventus in the same stages of the competition 2 years before. But Agger has proven himself to be a goal threat too, scoring sensational long-range strikes against West Ham and Blackburn in the past. And whilst scoring goals isn’t the key to becoming a legendary defender, it certainly helps.
Hyypia and Carragher weren’t just great defenders because of their ability to tackle. They were both passionate leaders, who controlled the back 4, and could be relied on to perform at the highest level. Hyypia was the club captain from 2001 to 2003, whilst Carragher has been the club’s vice captain since 2003, wearing the armband when Steven Gerrard has been off the field. Agger will need to show the leadership qualities the duo displayed in the past.
John Alrdidge also feels Agger needs to be more like Carragher when it comes to passion. Writing for the Liverpool Echo, discussing both Agger and Martin skrtel, he said: “No disrespect to either Daniel Agger or Martin Skrtel – but Jamie Carragher showed them exactly what area of their game they both need to work on. Neither is the most dominant presence.”
“Both certainly don’t talk enough. That will be why Jamie was brought back in by Brendan Rodgers – to organise, to marshal the defence and tell people what they should be doing. That’s what Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel must improve.”
If the Danish defender can continue to play most, if not all, of Liverpool’s Premier League matches, and start to display the passion and leadership of the back 4, then there’s no reason why he can’t become a true legend at Anfield. He’s won the love of the fans and the manager, but now comes the hard part. He must continue to progress and work hard at Anfield, and not get complacent now he is one of the first names on Rodgers’ team sheet. Hyypia and Carragher were superb trainers, who worked hard every day to get better and better on the field. Agger must become a leader, and a rock in the heart of Liverpool’s defence to become an equal with the two former centre-backs.
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