Though his time at Anfield appears to be nearing its end, Joe Allen will be remembered as something of a cult figure following his presumed final season at the club and a key role in Wales’ historic Euro 2016 run. Strong play, a few key contributions. And also the beard. Always the beard.
"It wasn’t to be tonight," said Allen following the match. "It’s been an amazing journey and we can be proud. It’s a shame that three-minute spell cost us, but we knew they were capable of hurting us. Before the goals there weren’t too many problems, but it was a great header. Then, after the second goal, we had a mountain to climb."
He arrived saddled with a "Welsh Xavi" moniker by former manager Brendan Rodgers. By the end of the 2015-16 season, fans had instead taken to calling him the Welsh Pirlo. And while it was done with tongue in cheek, it wasn’t done to mock Allen. It was to compliment what seemed a growing importance to the side.
By the time the Euros rolled around, he was the Welsh Jesus, at least to Wales’ supporters. Along with Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, it was Allen who was key in Wales making it to the semi-finals of a major tournament. It will now be Allen who will be key in their hopes of making it to the 2018 World Cup.
The only question now is which club he plays for while he’s doing it. There has been a rejected £8M bid from Swansea, with Liverpool set on a £14M valuation for a player with one year to go in his current deal. There have been rumours of interest from Inter Milan and Sevilla, though both may find his price tag a little steep.
Perhaps, even, there’s the chance he won’t leave Anfield. The club, by most accounts, aren’t rushing to push him out the door. Understandably, though, Allen would like more than just a reserve role; to be more than just a spare part at the club level. And so he will likely leave. But as a cult hero rather than a punchline.
"Credit to the fans, they stuck behind us and gave us everything," he added. "We pushed but couldn’t quite get ourselves back in the game. But we’ve got no regrets. We’re proud of what we achieved. The whole nation has been behind us. We’ve created history and I don’t think Welsh football will ever be the same."