Daniel Agger rarely seeks out the spotlight at Liverpool FC, leaving the TV smashing, woodwork hitting, and cake baking challenges to other, more willing men. Yet suddenly he's everywhere this week, denying allegations of retirement or transfers, getting fit with an adamantium skeleton, and generally being thrust centre stage for one reason or another.
Not that anyone is complaining, mind you, as Agger can usually be counted upon to provide an honest assessment of the state of the club when others won't. With Liverpool's inevitable disappointing finish in the league and the constant knocking on his door by various continental powers, it would be understandable for a player of Agger's quality to move on to greener pastures, but the Dane insists that despite the club's challenges, he's staying put.
"I'm happy here," Agger said. "I still have three years left on my contract and I intend to fulfill them. There are always rumours. Who is creating them? I don’t know. It’s not a bad thing to be linked with big clubs but you have to take 70% off whatever you hear and then there’s the reality."
The commitment might mean less coming from many other players — it's not exactly unheard of for a player to say he'll honour his contract one minute only to jump ship the next — but Agger's obviously fierce loyalty to the club makes it far more believable coming from him, and his openness about staying despite the club's stumbles this season speaks volumes.
"I think we have played some really good football this season but we haven’t been consistent enough," he stated. "We have to admit that. Seventh in the league is far from where we want to be. We need to change something. It's difficult to say how much strengthening the squad needs. But we need to get some more quality in to help us move forward. What we need next season is consistency."
Consistency may be something challenging to find in the back line next season when Agger himself is thus far the only sure thing at centre back. With Jamie Carragher's retirement, the club lose their vice captain and their defensive marshal in one fell swoop. Agger insits that it's not a matter of finding a way to fill the Carra-shaped hole in the team so much as it is a simple changing of the guard.
"I don’t think you can replace Carra as every player is different," Agger said. "It’s always been like that in football. When somebody steps down, someone else has to take over."
Agger has been near the top of the list of potential future captains for the club once Steven Gerrard retires, and Carra's departure provides Agger an opportunity to really step up his level of leadership, both on the pitch and off it, if he is to prime himself to be seriously considered for the captaincy.
"Will I need to take on more responsibility?" Agger pondered. "I play the way I do and I'm the person I am. I'm already doing the things I can for the team and I won’t really change that. I am taking the responsibility I need to take and I don’t have a problem with that. I enjoy it but I think there are a few players taking a lot of responsibility."
Unanswered rhetorical questions aside, there are obviously things Agger can do to improve his game and ways he'll need to enhance his organizing presence on the pitch if he's to fully inherit the torch from Carragher, but Agger's maturity, ownership of his faults, and uncompromising approach to his game put him in a firm position to really grow his leadership next season.