Who Wore It Best? is an ongoing series where we'll look back at the players who donned each number during the Premier League era, and then you get to decide who wore it best.
A few things: we're only talking about the Premier League era, starting in 1993, when official squad numbers began in England. In the case of players who wore multiple numbers during their Liverpool careers, you should base your final judgment on their performances while they wore that number (ie Gerrard as number eight vs Gerrard as number 17). In the case of players whose careers with Liverpool began before 1993, it's only fair to consider their whole time with the club when making your decision.
Nation: Republic of Ireland
Seasons With Liverpool: 1988-89 through 1991, 1998-99 through 2000
Not many players have the distinction of coming back to play for Liverpool a full decade after their initial debut, but Steve Staunton claims that peculiar honor for himself. The versatile Irish left-back/forward/occasional goalkeeper thrived under Dalglish, but was sold by Souness to Aston Villa in 1991 due to the rule prohibiting the number of non-English players allowed per team. Staunton then, of course, did well enough at Villa that Liverpool snatched him up again in 1998. And because football is sometimes the best, he even gave it a go in goal for the Reds -- during a Merseyside derby, no less. In 1999, Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld got sent off after the Reds had already made their three substitutions, so Stan was a trooper and played in goal for the last 15 minutes of the match. While his subsequent managerial attempts would prove ill-fated, Staunton certainly had an interesting career.
Seasons With Liverpool: 1991-92 through 1997-98
After the injury and retirement of Reds’ captain Alan Hansen, new manager Graeme Souness sealed the deal to bring Mark Wright to Liverpool in order to shore up Liverpool’s back line. After an FA Cup win in 1992, Wright’s Liverpool career took a downturn, until eventually he was iced out of the first team by Roy Evans during the 1994-95 season. But in a surprising comeback, Wright, at 32-years-old, regained his first team spot in Evans’s back line after a year out of the team. He played two more strong seasons with Liverpool until he retired at 35-years-old.
Nation: Czech Republic
Seasons With Liverpool: 2001-02 through 2005
It is a dubious distinction, especially for an attacker, that after several seasons with a club -- after being part of a winning Champions League campaign — the thing that Milan Baros will always be remembered for was the one time that he successfully didn’t touch the ball. That’s maybe a bit unfair. Baros scored a brace on his Premier League debut against Bolton Wanderers on his way to bagging 12 goals in his first season. A broken ankle, sustained in that same terrible game when Jamie Carragher also broke his leg, kept Baros out for most of the 2003-04 campaign. He won the Golden Boot at the 2004 Euros while representing his country. But apart from all that, Milan Baros will go down in Liverpool lore as the player who swerved clumsily out of the way of Vladimir Smicer’s thunderbolt of a second goal during the 2005 Champions League final. There are certainly worse legacies.
Seasons With Liverpool: January 2006 through 2014
Liverpool gained an honorary, Danish Scouser in the winter of 2006 when Rafa Benítez scooped up Daniel Agger from Brøndby, Agger’s childhood club. Agger spent his first season fighting for a spot in Liverpool’s back line against Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypiä, until finally carving a place for himself in Benítez’s starting XI. It’s hard to forget the first goal he scored for the club: a 35-yard screamer against West Ham that ended with him kissing the crest on his shirt before celebrating with his teammates. The kissing of the crest is something often mocked in this age of footballers flitting from one team to the next. With Agger, though, his love for the club and respect for the city of Liverpool were crystal clear through his eight years in Merseyside.
Aggressive defense, coupled with astute passing, and a willingness to make long runs up field with the ball -- not to mention the ability to hit the occasional world class strike — made Agger an important part of Benítez’s set-up until the Spaniard was replaced by Roy Hodgson in 2010. Agger’s positive style of football clashed with Hodgson’s preferred long-ball method, but thankfully the Danish prince outlasted Hodgson’s brief, disastrous reign. In the end, years of persistent injuries finally caught up to Agger and forced him to make a move back to Brøndby to see out the rest of his career.
Seasons With Liverpool: 2016-17 - current
Finally we come to the present day and Gini Wijnaldum, the young midfielder whose smile is a beacon of pure joy in an otherwise dark world. Fast, smart, and hard-working, Wijnaldum clocked more minutes in his first season than most would have guessed beforehand, due to the many injuries sustained by his teammates. It didn’t take long for Wijnaldum to acclimate to Klopp’s style of play to take advantage of the chances he’d been given. His presence in Liverpool’s midfield played a big part in the team’s successful campaign to return to the Champions League. There’s hopefully still plenty more to come from our Gini.
There you have it: all of the Liverpool number fives over the last twenty-four seasons. Now, you get to have your say. If you’re coming to us from Google AMP and can’t see the poll, feel free to put your answer in the comments.
Who wore the no. 5 shirt best?
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