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Liverpool FC’s Cult Hero XI

We looked back at Liverpool’s cult heroes of the past ten years for this week’s XI.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Fulham v Liverpool - Craven Cottage Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Over the years, there have been players whom Liverpool fans have taken to, embraced, or simply become invested in to a degree that has eclipsed what they’ve done on the pitch. The hard workers, grafters, and scorers of key goals. Players who left everything on the pitch. Players that had outsized, memorable personalities.

These are Liverpool’s cult hero players—and in particular the cult hero players from the past ten seasons. The players who might not have been the top scorers or even always locks to be in the starting eleven but who are remembered in many cases more than those who, for any number of reasons, might have been ahead of them in the pecking order.

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Goalkeeper / José Enrique

It’s difficult to pick a cult hero goalkeeper for Liverpool over the past decade. Or it would be until you remember that José Enrique served as the Reds’ emergency shot stopper, called on to replace Pepe Reina in 2012 when the Spaniard head-butted Newcastle’s James Perch. He played 13 minutes and didn’t concede a goal—which made him the only player with no goals against that season in the Premier League. Enrique is a player many fans remember fondly, and he has particularly endeared himself to fans post-career with his unwavering support of the club he spent five seasons at—and if you asked the fans for their one most-lasting mental image of his time at the club, it would be when he pulled on a grey goalkeeper shirt and moved between the sticks.

Defender / Kolo Touré

Kolo Touré, aka Francois the car salesman, spent three seasons at Anfield and was never first choice, but the veteran was one of the most popular players in the side for his time at the club, with fans regularly chanting his name and turning his calming personality into a meme that lasted well beyond his playing days. When you had Kolo, there was never any need to be upset.

Liverpool FC Training Session Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Defender / Sotirios Kyrgiakos

He spent just two years at the club and played just thirty games as fourth choice centre half. And those two years might have been the worst years the club have had in the last decade. What he lacked for in technique and reading of the game, though, he made up for in sheer determination and hair. Particularly hair. In fact, he rather looked like he’d been plucked straight out of some never-going-to-make-it metal band stuck perpetually touring dive bars in Bulgaria or Latvia and dropped onto the pitch. Which, in a squad of players who mostly looked like proper football players but mostly didn’t seem to be that good at playing football, made him a very easy figure to latch on to.

Defender / Ragnar Klavan

Toure, Kyrgiakos, and Klavan. There’s something about backup veteran centre halves signed on a free. And in Klavan’s case as with Kyrgiakos, there was a bit of a metal band slash viking vibe to the Estonian. Though in Klavan’s case, there was also a perhaps unexpected level of technical talent—a necessity even in a fourth choice centre half at a time when Jürgen Klopp’s plan was under way and Liverpool’s overall talent level rising quickly. In the end he spent two seasons at Anfield, played 53 games in total, and left in search of more playing time and with many thinking he could have still had a key role to play if he’d wanted to stick around.

Liverpool v Manchester United- Premier League Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Midfield / Dirk Kuyt

Kuyt was probably never the most talented player on a team but it never mattered because he was the hardest working player in every side he ever played in, going back to the U8 level at Quick Boys in the Netherlands, probably. And he was always one of the first names on the teamsheet because of that; always a lock for the starting eleven. He would probably be a lock for the starting eleven even today in what is at the very least the best Liverpool side of the Premier League era—whether at striker or as a wide midfielder or even maybe filling in at fullback. In a working class city like Liverpool, there will always be a special spot in the fans’ hearts for hard working players, and there has never been a player that fits that description better than Kuyt. Plus there was the stuff with Jan-Jan the Hammer Man. That was fun.

Midfield / Raul Meireles

Oh Raul, you glorious, glorious weirdo, with your beekeeper beards and mohawks and artisanal knitted alpaca sweaters that looked like they’d been fished out of a dumpster but might have cost more than the average person earned in a month. Or that might actually have been fished out of a dumpster. He spent just one season at Anfield, but it was a highly productive one and when he left most saw his potential replacements as clear downgrades, but despite his qualities on the pitch his cult hero status derives mostly from just how unlike a football player—and more like somebody who’d try to open a boutique selling crocheted owls and rare succulents—he came across as.

Midfield / Joe Allen

The Welsh Xavi—or maybe it was the Welsh Pirlo, we can never quite remember—didn’t live up to his star billing but remained a hugely popular player both during and after his time at the club, with fans oddly enamoured with the diminutive midfield playmaker who always seemed to make the side a little bit better when he was in it—even if you couldn’t quite make out how or why. Plus he’s probably the only Liverpool player to pose on a magazine cover with a chicken.

Chelsea v Liverpool - Carling Cup Quarter Final Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Midfield / Maxi Rodriguez

His best years were probably just a little bit past him when Maxi arrived at the club, and as a result his minutes were more limited than many would have expected given his resume, but fans grasped on to the flashes of brilliance the Argentine wide-man still had in his boots and there seemed a mutual love between the player and Anfield faithful as any time he stepped on the pitch he was serenaded with one of the catchiest songs the Kop has ever sang—something that in itself may have played a role in his outsized popularity.

Forward / Danny Ings

Danny Ings was meant to be the new Dirk Kuyt, the poacher who got by as much on sheer force of will as what talent he did have—and he needed all of his determination to recover from a string of serious injuries. Those injuries meant he never got to show much of what he could do for the Reds, but his promise when he did play combined with his determination to overcome the obstacles made him an easy player to root for—which many Liverpool fans still do now that he’s at Southampton.

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Forward / Divock Origi

Origi remains on the fringes of the current Liverpool squad, a player who at times appears destined to be a star yet can also frustrate for long stretches, but no matter where his career leads—be it to an eventual, proper breakthrough with the Reds or to another club in search of more regular playing time—he will go down in the history of the club for three goals. Three moments. Against Everton, and then against Barcelona, and then against Tottenham. Over the course of a single season he beat the Blues with a bizarre stoppage time goal, was on the end of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner taken quickly, and sealed the deal for Liverpool’s sixth European Cup. Legend.

Forward / Craig Bellamy

The feisty Welsh winger returned for just one season with Liverpool and played just 33 games, but even as he neared the end of his career Bellamy retained all the trademarks that had made him a fan favourite in his first go with the club. Namely that he was a bit of a dick. But he was Liverpool’s dick. And he could back up his often abrasive, combative play with a decent helping of technique and some well-taken goals. The definition of the sort of player you love to have on your team—and absolutely loathe if he’s on the other side.

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