This week we focus on the number five shirt, a digit that has been represented all over the field. From Mark Wright, the towering centre-back, not the reality TV “star”, all the way through to a certain Czech striker up top. To fill in the gap between the two, current holder Georginio Wijnaldum has embedded himself in the first-team squad following a successful debut season at Anfield. He arrived from Newcastle United for a fee of £23million. He first broke onto the scene with the Magpies after he netted four times in a Premier League match against Norwich City. The Dutch international offered the only real sense of consistency in central midfield last season, as his team mates all fell to injury at one time or another. This is a role that the Liverpool faithful will be hoping to see Gini feature in for some time to come.
Ronnie Whelan will be regarded as one of the all-time great Liverpool captains, having been a part of six First Division title-winning seasons. The Irishman was signed in 1979 by Bob Paisley for a bargain price of £35,000 when he was just 17-years-old. Having spent most of his time coming up through the reserve squad, Whelan’s breakthrough season came in 1982 when he replaced Ray Kennedy, another great wearer of the number five, on the left-hand side of midfield. It was a fairytale campaign for the youngster who was excellent throughout the duration; as Liverpool went on to lift another First Division title. They would also claim the League Cup and Whelan himself bagged two goals in the 3-1 final win over Tottenham.
The following season was almost identical, as another double was completed and the number five even scored in the League Cup final again, although this time it was just the single strike against Manchester United. In 1984 the Reds went one better and clinched the European Cup in 1984 as well. Despite being injured for most of the season, Whelan is still considered as being very influential during that term. At the start of the 88/89 season, he had now moved into a more central midfield role and was awarded the captains armband after Alan Hansen was kept out through injury. After the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, Whelan played a pivotal leadership role both on and off the pitch to ensure that the club recovered and kept moving forward. The way he acted during this time is why he is considered to be a truly great leader.
Despite winning 13 major trophies during his time as a Red, opposition fans like to remember Whelan for his comical thirty-yard own goal against Manchester United. Somehow, he managed to mishit a back pass so badly that the ball flew over the stranded Bruce Grobbelaar’s head and into the back of the net. In 1994, following a 16-year stay with the club, it was time for Whelan to move onto pastures new after his contract was not extended. He spent a few years as a player-manager at Southend United before turning his focus to managing the club full-time.
Fast forward to 2002 and we see the club sign the relatively unknown Milan Baros from Banik Ostrava, for a fee of £3.2million. Following issues with his work permit, Baros was only able to play a total of 16 minutes during the 01/02 campaign. However, it was the following season where he would start to come into his own. The striker scored a brace on his Premier League debut against Bolton Wanderers and went on to lift the first major trophy of his career. Despite being a substituted substitute, Baros’ success came after a 2-0 win over Manchester United in the League Cup final.
Toward the start of his third season with the club, Baros suffered a broken ankle and consequently missed four months and struggled to find any sort of rhythm within the first team. His final full season with the club ended with the famous 2005 Champions League final. He played 85 minutes of normal time but ultimately had little effect on the game, but would still leave his mark on the night. During the post match celebrations, he dropped the trophy leaving a dent in the silverware. The club chose not to fix the damage as they claimed it added character. At the start of the following season, Baros would join Aston Villa in a deal worth just over £6million. The player is currently the Czech Republic’s second highest goalscorer of all time with 41.
Last, but most certainly not least, we must talk about Daniel Agger. The imposing centre-back joined Liverpool from Brondby IF in January 2006 for £6million, making him the most expensive Dane to be sold overseas. Injuries limited his playing time during that half season, but during his time on Merseyside, he became one of the most beloved foreign players in the club’s history. He became notorious for popping up with goals, coming courtesy of a powerful header or an even more powerful long range strike. After he was joined in the centre of defence by Martin Skrtel in 2008, the duo formed one of the most solid, as well as the most heavily tattooed, central defences in the Premier League. A pairing that many fans long for to this day.
Despite being at the club for almost nine years, Agger lost out on a lot of playing time due to reoccurring injuries, mainly in his back. Although he didn’t have the most successful tenures at Liverpool, the only silverware he picked up was a League Cup and a Community Shield, he will definitely be remembered fondly by fans. In 2014 he returned home to Brondby where he would play out the remaining two years of his career. However, he would turn out in a Liverpool shirt once again, as he was one of several legends who participated in the post season friendly against Sydney FC just a few short months ago.
Next week could be a slightly more obscure and comedic installment, as we look at the number 21 in order to celebrate the career of the recently departed Lucas Leiva.