Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2010s

Last week, we brought you our pick of the 10 worst Liverpool players of the last 10 years. This time, we make our selection of the 10 best players to represent the club in this decade. It’s a list which includes several European champions, some Premier League Golden Boot winners and the occasional Ballon D’Or nominee, as well as a man regarded in some quarters as the best player in the club’s history.

For the purposes of this piece, we’re concentrating solely on what players have done in the 2010s, so some of those who excelled for Liverpool in the 2000s but had a far lesser impact from 2010 onwards have not been included. With that in mind, only one of the players on the list had played for the club prior to the start of 2010.

If you’re still trembling at the thoughts of some of the players featured in last week’s column, here’s the ideal antidote of our top 10 Liverpool players of the 2010s:

10. Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge Liverpool 2010s

The England striker began his professional career at Manchester City before going on to play for Chelsea, from whom he joined Liverpool in January 2013 for a reported £12m (as per The Guardian). He scored in each of his first three games for the Reds, becoming the first player to achieve that feat since Ray Kennedy in 1974 (as per BBC).

Sturridge scored 11 goals in his first half-season at the club and continued that fine form into the 2013/14 campaign, which ended with him netting 25 times as he and Luis Suarez formed a lethal partnership up front as Liverpool fell narrowly short of a first Premier League title. He got a few memorable goals in that season too, including stunners against West Brom, Stoke and Everton.

Unfortunately, his 2014/15 season was marred by numerous injuries, something that became a recurring theme throughout his time at Liverpool. By 2017, he had lost his place in the side to the likes of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, and duly went on loan to West Brom for the second half of 2017/18.

Sturridge enjoyed a brief scoring spurt of three goals in September 2018, including a jaw-dropping late equaliser at Chelsea. While he was let go by the club just after their Champions League triumph this year, his return of 68 goals in 160 appearances, and his fantastic form during 2013/14, earns him a place in this list.

9. Steven Gerrard

Gerrard’s status at Liverpool is reflected by his placing at the top of a list of their greatest ever players by The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe. Going into the 2010s, he was already an Anfield stalwart, having captained the Reds to success in the Champions League and FA Cup in the middle of the previous decade.

Among the standout moments for the long-serving club captain was the Merseyside derby at Anfield in March 2012 (his 400th Premier League appearance) in which he scored a hat-trick, shortly after lifting the League Cup for the Reds, his third triumph in that competition. He scored in 16 consecutive league seasons for the Reds, a club record, and his slip in the defeat to Chelsea that scuppered Liverpool’s title challenge in 2014 was rough justice on someone who had already given more than 15 years’ service to the club at that point.

Gerrard announced midway through the 2014/15 season that it would be his last for the Reds. Sadly, his final two appearances for his boyhood club ended in embarrassing defeats by Crystal Palace and Stoke. It was not a fitting way for a Liverpool legend of 710 appearances and 11 trophies to end his Anfield career.

8. Alisson

alisson-liverpool-2010s

Liverpool’s defeat in the 2018 Champions League final was largely down to two goalkeeping howlers from Loris Karius, a scenario that prompted manager Jurgen Klopp to set a new transfer record for a player in that position by signing Alisson from Roma for £66.9m (as per The Guardian) a few weeks later.

Brazil’s number one at that summer’s World Cup, he showed supreme confidence on the ball by chipping Brighton’s Anthony Knockaert in one of his earliest Reds games, only to be caught in possession and gift a goal to Leicester a week later. However, saves such as the stoppage time one against Napoli which kept the Reds in the Champions League showed his class.

He won the Premier League Golden Glove in his first season at Anfield, keeping 21 clean sheets from 38 matches in the division, and also kept Tottenham at bay as Liverpool laid the ghosts of Kiev 2018 by lifting the Champions League trophy in Madrid a year later. After previously enduring Karius, Simon Mignolet and a declining Pepe Reina as first-choice goalkeepers, the Reds finally found a consistently dependable netminder towards the end of the decade.

7. Philippe Coutinho

The Brazilian playmaker arrived at Anfield from Inter on an £8.5m deal in January 2013 (as per Liverpool Echo) and made an instant impression, with three goals and seven assists in 13 league matches in his first half-season.

Coutinho then scored five goals and set up seven in his first full Premier League campaign, scoring a memorable winner against Manchester City in April 2014 in the Reds’ ultimately unsuccessful title pursuit. Despite slumping to a sixth-place finish the following season, he was still nominated for PFA Player of the Year, again putting City to the sword with a sumptuous winning goal at Anfield.

He excelled during the 2016/17 campaign, scoring 13 Premier League goals as Liverpool returned to the top four. He began the following season with 12 goals in 20 games but, having handed in a transfer request, he was sold to Barcelona in January 2018 in a deal worth £142m (as per BBC).

The manner of Coutinho’s exit may have left a sour taste for some, but his prolific nature (54 goals), penchant for wonder goals and the frequency with which he set them up (45 assists in 201 Reds appearances) marked him out as a gifted player who often dazzled in his five years at Anfield.

6. Andrew Robertson

Andy-Robertson-Liverpool-2010s

With midfielder James Milner often preferred to natural left-back Alberto Moreno in that position the previous season, Liverpool’s decision in 2017 to sign a left-back who had just been relegated with Hull may have seemed a curious one.

Instead, the £10m purchase of Robertson (as per BBC) would go on to be an enormous coup. He didn’t slot straight into the team, often being benched in deference to Moreno, but a mid-season injury to the latter gave the Scotland defender his chance and he never looked back. He established himself as a genuine creative threat in 2018/19 with 11 Premier League assists and two more in the Reds’ Champions League triumph.

He made last season’s PFA Team of the Year and was hailed as the world’s best left-back by Phil Neville. He has already scored twice and set up five goals this term and, just two years after costing Liverpool a mere £10m, his omission from the Ballon D’Or shortlist was met with outrage by supporters, pundits and journalists – a measure of the incredible impact he has had at Anfield.

5. Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino Liverpool 2010s

The Brazil striker was a £29m signing from Hoffenheim in 2015 (as per BBC) but took time to settle at Anfield, having initially been criticised for failing to link up effectively with fellow acquisition Christian Benteke.

It took him until November to score his first goal for the Reds but ended his first season as their top Premier League scorer with 10. He again proved his worth to the team with 12 goals and 11 assists in 2016/17 and, by the following campaign, he formed part of a devastating attacking trident with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. Firmino netted 27 times in 2017/18, 10 of which came in their run to the Champions League final.

His first Reds hat-trick came in a 5-1 blitz of Arsenal just under a year ago and, despite his goal tally dropping to 20 since the start of 2018/19, his selfless play in dropping deep has earned plentiful praise from supporters and journalists. Now in his fifth season at Anfield, he is a deserving recipient of the delightful “Si Senor” chant from The Kop.

4. Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane Liverpool 2010s

Following on from Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne, the Senegal forward made the familiar journey from Southampton to Liverpool in 2016, costing the Reds £34m (as per BBC).

Having seen the likes of Mario Balotelli and Benteke become expensive striking flops in the previous couple of years, Mane instead struck 13 goals in 29 games in his first year at Liverpool and made the PFA Team of the Year. A further 20 goals followed in 2017/18, with half of those coming in the Reds’ Champions League campaign and one in the final against Real Madrid (as per TransferMarkt).

Along with Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he was the Premier League’s joint-top scorer last season and has struck 13 times already this term. With an impressive return of 72 goals from 144 Liverpool appearances, Mane has been a consistent threat in his three and a half years at the club thus far. His highlights have included a stoppage-time winner at Goodison Park three years ago and a Champions League hat-trick away to Porto in February 2018.

3. Luis Suarez

On the day that Fernando Torres left for Chelsea and Andy Carroll joined from Newcastle for £35m (as per BBC), Uruguay striker Suarez also sealed a move to Anfield for a fee of £22.8m (as per The Telegraph).

‘El Pistolero’ occasionally courted controversy in his time with the Reds – he was banned for eight matches in 2011/12 after the FA charged him with racially abusing Patrice Evra and received a 10-match ban in 2013 for biting Branislav Ivanovic. Upon coming back from that latter suspension, though, Liverpool fans would see the best of Suarez.

He was the Premier League’s top scorer in 2013/14 with 31 goals, including four in a display for the ages against Norwich. He was named PFA Player of the Year that season as his goals fuelled Liverpool’s title challenge.

He moved on to Barcelona the following summer and angered a lot of Reds fans by celebrating his goal against them in the Champions League last season, with many at Anfield subsequently jeering him in the return leg. Suarez was a loose cannon at times, but his devastating form in the 2013/14 season and his return of 82 goals in 133 Liverpool games showed his sublime quality as a player.

2. Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2010s

Having failed to establish himself at Chelsea (just two goals in 19 games), Liverpool’s decision to spend a club-record £36.9m (as per The Guardian) in June 2017 may have seemed puzzling. It would soon prove to be a masterstroke.

Far from needing time to settle in at Anfield, Salah ended his first season with the Reds with 44 goals, including 32 in the Premier League as he won the Golden Boot. Moments such as his four-goal blitz of Watford and his FIFA Puskas Award-winning solo strike against Everton summed up his sheer class and he deserved better than to have his season ended in tears after Sergio Ramos did a hatchet job on him in the Champions League final, which Liverpool lost to Real Madrid.

Salah couldn’t quite hit the same numbers again in 2018/19 but still scored 27 goals, including an outrageous long-distance strike against Chelsea. He also netted in the Champions League final against Tottenham as the Reds triumphed to lay the ghosts of Kiev the previous year. He had scored 69 goals for Liverpool by the time of his 100th appearance, a higher tally than any other centurion for the club (as per liverpoolfc.com).

With 11 goals to his name so far this season, the ‘Egyptian King’ has scored 82 times in just 125 games for Liverpool. Martin Tyler described his goal against Chelsea last April as “astonishing” – a word that neatly sums up Salah’s form in general in his time at Anfield.

1.Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2010s

Liverpool’s defensive struggles earlier in the decade were illustrated by their goal concession tallies in the Premier League – 50 goals conceded in 2013/14 and 2015/16, 48 the season in between and 42 in 2016/17 (as per TransferMarkt).

They had shipped 29 in the division by the time Van Dijk made his league debut for the Reds in January 2018 after a club record £75m move from Southampton at the turn of the year (as per BBC). They would only concede nine more thereafter and shipped just 22 league goals in the whole of last season, with the Dutchman starting every game in their Premier League campaign in which they accrued 97 points and lost just once.

The fearsome centre-back was the bedrock of Liverpool’s Champions League triumph last season and the scale of his performances were reflected in him being named PFA Player of the Year and UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, as well as coming second in the 2019 Ballon d’Or

It isn’t just defensively that Van Dijk has contributed, either. He has scored 10 times for the club while still being four games short of a century of appearances, including a double against Brighton recently. However, it is his immense performances at the other end of the pitch that have earned him a place at the top of our list of the best Liverpool players of the decade.