This current Liverpool squad, 25 points clear in the league and defending European Champions, could make a solid case for being the best Liverpool side of all time. Certainly they are the best of the Premier League era.
But past teams, even recent past teams, have had their share of great footballers, and so we got to thinking: what would a team look like if we picked one player per season from the past eleven to make it up? Would it be as good as or better than the current eleven?
The answer, if you just picked eleven players straight out, seems obvious. But what if the player that you’re getting is the player who played the season you’re picking him from? Then things get a little more complicated. And a little more fun.
So without further ado, eleven players from the past eleven seasons, with the only goal being to construct the best side possible—and the only rule being that the player you pick from the season you pick is the one you get.
We’ll work back through the years to add to the suspense, and please, do let us know if you’d do things differently in the comments.
2019-20 / Virgil van Dijk
Things get tricky off the top given all that stuff about the current Liverpool squad being, at least arguably, the best Liverpool squad that’s ever been a Liverpool squad. However, there are probably two players not just considered among the games best, but nearly universally considered the best at their positions. And those two are Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. It also just so happens they’ve both been at the club now for two full seasons.
There’s a case that both were ever so slightly better last year—the season for which Van Dijk was voted second in the Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi—but given Alisson’s injury issues this season, we think the fairly obvious call is to go with Van Dijk for our 2019-20 pick.
2018-19 / Alisson Becker
Which leaves Alisson as the obvious pick for 2018-19, with the first two setting a foundation for our combined XI that’s difficult to argue—but that likely takes players like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum, and others from the current group off the table.
Still, as with Van Dijk, the consensus is that Alisson is the game’s best at his position—and the gap between him and Pepe Reina in his final years at Anfield is, fond as we are of Pepe, massive.
2017-18 / Mohamed Salah
Forty-four goals. Say that a few times. Then remember that you’re getting the player from the season in question. So. We’re going to want the player who set the record for most goals in a Premier League season and the player with arguably the most impactful season ever as a Liverpool attacker—Salah’s 44 goals came from 52 total games compared to Ian Rush’s 47 back in 1983-84 coming from 65—in our side.
2016-17 / Philippe Coutinho
It came down to Coutinho or Sadio Mané here, and in our hearts we really wanted to find a way to squeeze the Senegalese forward into our XI. However, in the end we couldn’t look past what Coutinho did in his final full season at the club—the one that earned him that big money Barcelona move he likely now regrets. He was, in a word, magnificent.
Playing in a free role on the left, Coutinho was Liverpool’s best player that year, the club’s top star and creative chief, and with 14 goals and nine assists he was the consensus choice as the club’s player of the season when it wrapped up. If we could pick 2016-17 Sadio Mané and get 2019-20 Sadio Mané he’d have been the choice, but we’re confident picking 2016-17 Philippe Coutinho ahead of 2016-17 Mané is the right call.
2015-16 / Nathaniel Clyne
The passing years mean Trent Alexander-Arnold is off the board, and of the remaining options at right back we felt we had three player-seasons to choose from if we wanted to get a right back worth a spot in our combined XI: Glen Johnson in 2012-13, and Nathaniel Clyne in 2015-16 or 2016-17. In the end, Clyne in 2015-16 was simply the one that best fit for building out the rest of the team.
2014-15 / Jordan Henderson
We’d probably rather have Jordan Henderson from the past two seasons, Jürgen Klopp’s now fully tempered midfield steel, but unlike many in the current squad there’s at least a viable way to get him in the side, and that’s with 2014-15. In a group that slumped to sixth after nearly winning the title the year before, at times it felt like Henderson was the only thing holding it together at all. And it remains his most productive year in red, with seven goals and 15 assists in 54 games—an outstanding return that many overlooked given the team’s larger struggles.
2013-14 / Luis Suarez
Say what you will about some of Suarez’ antics, but the feisty Uruguayan might be the most purely exciting player Liverpool fans have had the chance to watch in the Premier League era, and 2013-14 was Suarez at his absolute peak—the season that, as with Coutinho a few years later, would earn him his big move to Barcelona.
Putting everything else aside, this was Suarez’ at his scintillating best—and most free of regrettable extracurricular activities—out on the pitch as he put his head down, loaded Liverpool up onto his back, and carried them to within a slip of a title that on talent they really didn’t have any right being in the conversation for.
2012-13 / Daniel Agger
Of all the defenders that plied their trade for Liverpool during the dark years of the first half of the decade, none stood out quite like Daniel Agger—defensively sound and one of the classiest defenders the club have ever had with the ball at his feet. A player so good he was courted by Barcelona but who, with YNWA tattooed on his knuckles, turned them down.
The only downside was injuries. But of all the seasons he’s available to be selected from, 2012-13 was when Agger was healthiest, making 39 appearances for Liverpool before those injuries really took their toll on his career, and it gives us an exceptionally worthy partner for Virgil van Dijk.
2011-12 / José Enrique
If Trent being off the board made right back a bit of a head-scratcher, Liverpool’s struggles at the position before Andy Robertson established himself makes left back into a major headache. However, of all the player-season options there appears one standout: José Enrique in 2011-12, his first and best year in red and almost certainly the best season for a Liverpool left back in the decade before Robertson arrived.
2010-11 / Lucas Leiva
With two years and two midfield spots left to fill, it’s a touch convenient that Liverpool’s outstanding player from the tumultuous 2010-11 season can anchor it. On and off the pitch, Liverpool were rather a mess—Roy Hodgson arrived as Rafa Benitez’ successor, the club flirted with administration before being sold to Fenway Sports Group, and finally Kenny Dalglish arrived to steady the ship.
Through it all, though, there was Lucas. Fighting off Hodgson’s attempt to replace him with Christian Poulsen. Establishing himself as, for a short time and before his disastrous ACL injury the next year, one of Europe’s top defensive midfielders. Being, in the end, the club’s player of the season as results and moods improved. He was the club’s best player in 2010-11, and this XI needs a midfielder. It’s an easy choice.
2009-10 / Steven Gerrard
Which leaves one spot, and there was only ever one choice for it. While 2009-10 might not be Gerrard at his absolute peak, it’s only one year removed from what might have been his best season when he played as a free ten supporting Fernando Torres and drove the Reds to a second place finish as part of a side that, until the current side, was Liverpool’s strongest of the Premier League era. The results might not have been there in the season in question, but this is still a Gerrard at his physical peak or close to it, a player more than able to drive a side forward as its most attacking midfielder, and he’s the obvious—and only—final choice to round out our combined XI from the last eleven seasons.
Liverpool FC’s XI for XI
GK: Alisson Becker (2018-19)
RB: Nathaniel Clyne (2015-16)
CB: Virgil van Dijk (2019-20)
CB: Daniel Agger (2012-13)
LB: José Enrique (2011-12)
DM: Lucas Leiva (2010-11)
CM: Jordan Henderson (2014-15)
AM: Steven Gerrard (2009-10)
RW: Mohamed Salah (2017-18)
CF: Luis Suarez (2013-14)
LW: Philippe Coutinho (2016-17)