After a solid decade featuring the tandem leadership of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher as the club's captain and vice-captain, Liverpool will appoint a new second-in-command for the 2013/14 season.
In choosing a vice-captain, the club isn't just choosing a player who will take the lead on the pitch in Stevie's absence. Liverpool's lack of European football combined with the skipper's improved fitness — knock on wood — should provide relatively few opportunities in the coming season for the deputy to take the armband. No, the underlying pressure the club faces is that they're not just choosing a vice captain but, barring catastrophe, they're choosing the club's next captain too.
This is no small task, nor no small ask of the player Brendan Rodgers eventually selects.
The Front Runners
Reina has long played the deputy-of-the-deputy role, which in recent seasons has meant that overlaps in Gerrard and Carragher injury layoffs have seen Reina step into the captain's boots on multiple occasions. After Gerrard, Reina is Liverpool's longest serving player in the current squad; however, many have mixed feelings on how much influence on the match a 'keeper captain can have if he's trapped at one end of the pitch, although there are many non-LFC examples of captains who have successfully plied their trade between the sticks.
Lucas' growth into a fan favourite on Merseyside has been well documented, and everyone loves a story of a much reviled player coming good. If there's one player who can replace the intangible, shirt-tucking "dad" aspect of Carra's vice captaincy, it's Lucas; Philippe Coutinho can provide references if necessary. The midfielder seems to excel at playing the role of supportive teammate, and operates as the glue that holds the South American contingent of players together.
With his commitment to the club inked on his fingers, few would dare question Agger's loyalty to Liverpool. Agger is known for his consistent, if sometimes brutal, honesty and has been one of the few players to call the team out for not playing well when they have, in fact, not played well. The Dane's bluntness is refreshing in a world where there can be so much media spin every time a player opens his mouth; with Agger, there is no confusion whatsoever about where he stands on a given subject. This frankness shouldn't be confused with lacking the diplomatic skills a captain needs; Agger has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he has the maturity to respond to criticism with a much needed sense of dignity and, most importantly, without deflecting responsibility onto others.
The Dark Horses
Talk that Suarez could take up the role has cooled considerably since he bit Branislav Ivanovic and told the Uruguayan press he's considering leaving Liverpool, which would make this whole discussion moot. Nevertheless, Suarez's candidacy for the vice captaincy has always been less about what his leadership could do for the team as it has been about what the responsibility of leadership could do for him and his courtship of the controversial.
Suarez captained Liverpool for the first and only time during the 2-3 FA Cup loss against Oldham Athletic, and did manage a surprisingly mature display in this capacity. Of course, Martin Jol's appointment of Suarez to the captaincy during the striker's time at Ajax did not prevent him from biting PSV's Otman Bakkal.
At twenty-three, Henderson is the youngest player on the list but is by no means too young to be considered given that Steven Gerrard was appointed captain at the same age. Henderson hasn't yet nailed down a consistent starting place in Brendan Rodgers' squad but the player has a strong work ethic and an ability to stay out of trouble that shouldn't be underestimated. Henderson already captains the U21 English team, and deputizing the England's senior team captain is a pretty great apprenticeship to land.