Emre Can showed he was willing to take on the mantle of a club legend when he arrived at Anfield and chose to wear Jamie Carragher’s number 23. For a time, when he was filling in at centre half, that choice looked as though it might turn out more telling of his future than anyone had guessed.
Under Jürgen Klopp, though, there’s been no question about whether Can is a midfielder or centre half, as he’s been firmly planted higher up the pitch. As a result of that—as well as his good play in recent months—there have increasingly been comparisons to another club legend. In place of Carragher, now it’s Steven Gerrard.
"This is more than a great honour for me," Can said when asked by the German press about comparisons to the former Liverpool captain and the German’s growing influence in midfield. "Gerrard is such a down to earth person and such a great footballer. It makes me proud to when I hear things like that being said.
"But I am far from where Gerrard was. I want to become a world class player, but I still have a lot of work to do. And with all due respect, I am also unlike Gerrard. I want to go my own way—as Emre Can."
Comparisons to Gerrard are always going to come for younger midfielders at Liverpool. At least until another player comes along who can become a star in their own right. Can, though, is a different sort of player. More physical off the ball and more likely to drive the side from a deeper starting position.
With Jordan Henderson struggling to fully overcome the effects of his plantar fasciitis, though, Can has certainly been the club’s key midfielder so far under Klopp. And Can knows he and his teammates will have to be at their absolute best to beat Borussia Dortmund on Thursday.
"I follow the Bundesliga so I know their team," he added. "I also played a few times against Dortmund. They’re very strong, they press well, they can play football, and they have a good striker in Aubameyand—he can always score.
"But I think we’ve performed well in the big games against the big teams. For example against City and Chelsea we played very well, and that’s what we want to do again on Thursday, though it will be difficult and a different game to the Premier League."