John Barnes, Luis Garcia and Steven Gerrard: The greatest Liverpool midfielders of all time

steven gerard with european cup 2005

Analysing club history can give you goosebumps, especially when re-watching old or even recent footage.

From hearing the names through the tannoy or the commentator, to seeing the goals and the nostalgia of your favourite heroes lifting trophies aloft.

In a player’s career, they may only have stayed at Anfield for a short time or a long while, but either way they made an impact and impression upon supporters.

And recently, I’ve explored the best goalkeepers and the best defenders to play for Liverpool Football Club.

In this latest piece, we are moving up the field, to perhaps my favourite area of the pitch, the midfield.

And over the years, across the decades and different eras, we’ve had goal smashing midfielders to silky passers to defensive lynchpins.

Let’s see who makes the list for Greatest of All Time LFC Midfielders.

Ian Callaghan

It makes sense to start with Liverpool’s record all time appearance holder.

The local boy joined in 1957 and quickly made his debut in 1960 and became a stalwart under Bill Shankly and later Bill Paisley.

He helped the club achieve promotion to the first division in 1962 before winning it in 64 and 66 under Shanks.

Callaghan said himself that his favourite Reds memory was in winning the club’s first FA Cup in 1965.

It was his pass that set up the winning goal for Ian St John to see off Leeds United 2-1 in the 117th minute.

“First has to be Wembley ‘65 and Liverpool lifting the FA Cup for the first time.

It was also my first appearance at the stadium and I had a hand, or rather a foot, in the winning goal.”

He then won league titles again in 73, 76 and 77, as well as another FA Cup in 74 as Liverpool thrashed Newcastle United 3-0 at Wembley.

The most notable victories were the European Cup triumphs of 77 and 78 against Borussia Mönchengladbach and Club Brugge.

In addition to winning two UEFA Cup’s, Callaghan won it all and made 857 appearances for the club, spanning 18 years, to go down as one of the greatest Liverpool players of all time.

Jimmy Case

Signed for the club in 1973, he made his professional debut in 1975.

He became known as a tough tackling midfielder, with an eye for goal with his shooting prowess.

In his six playing seasons, he scored 46 goals in 269 matches, and won trophies galore including four league titles and three European Cups.

He left under a cloud at just 28 due to drinking problems off the field, but continued to have a strong career at the likes of Brighton and Southampton, playing well into his forties.

Still revered by the Kop.

John Wark

Signed from Ipswich Town in 1984 as the replacement for fellow Scotsman Souness, the midfielder became an instant hit.

Although he only had a brief three-year spell at Anfield, Wark achieved a highly impressive record in such a short space of time.

The Glaswegian netted 42 goals in 108 games and helped them win the league on the year of his arrival.

He returned to Ipswich, persuaded by the great Sir Bobby Robson but had praise from Paisley.

“How many times have you heard it said that goalscoring is all about being in ‘the right place at the right time.

“Most footballers know where the right ‘place’ is, but relatively few can sense when the time is ‘right’.

“John Wark has great timing. You could set your watch by him.”

Ray Kennedy

A revelation after joining from Arsenal in 1974, and the final signing of the Shankly era, Kennedy became a mainstay in the Liverpool midfield.

With a powerful left foot and good in the air, Kennedy would claim some vital goals and play his part in some vital wins during his Anfield career.

Between 74 and 1982, he won three European Cups and five league titles, and Paisley described him as: “one of Liverpool’s greatest players and probably the most underrated”.

Graeme Souness

One of my personal favourites, Souness was a beast.

An all-rounder, who could inspire the dressing room, and also had that air of confidence about him.

He was masterful from the penalty spot and did well to support fellow Scotsman Kenny Dalglish in providing Liverpool’s key attacking threat.

Souness was also immensely popular with supporters in his six years from 1978-1984, in which time he won everything at the club, from five league titles to three European Cups and four League Cups.

Certainly, one of the best midfielders Liverpool has ever had.

Terry McDermott

The man who looked like Souness, and they could be brothers with the matching curly mullet and moustache, and both were close friends on and off the pitch.

They formed quite the partnership and were formidable as Liverpool dominated the football landscape at home and abroad.

McDermott was capable of spectacular long-range strikes and had a decent scoring record to boot.

He was sublime and talented and his goals are certainly worth a watch.

Jan Molby

The Dane was a cracking player in the Dalglish era of the 80s scoring 21 goals in the 85-86 season.

He spent over a decade at Anfield making over 200 appearances, suggesting although his playing time was limited, he was lauded for his skill and vision.

His boss famously said this about his then young prodigy: “I couldn’t believe such a creative player was languishing in Liverpool reserves and I couldn’t wait to use him,” Dalglish said.

“Jan had unbelievable feet and I defied anybody to state categorically which was the stronger, because either foot could propel the ball at unbelievable speed towards goal.”

Ask any Reds fans and they will say Molby is a huge favourite with them.

John Barnes

One of the greatest wingers of all time in Liverpool’s history.

From Kingston, Jamaica, Barnes was one of Dalglish’s stellar signings, arriving in 1987 for £900,000 from Watford.

He was worth every penny and made a formidable attack alongside John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley.

In his debut season, he helped his side win the league with 90 points, and also won the PFA and Writers Player of the Year.

Barnes produced a constant stream of double-digit goals nearly every season, and won two league titles, one FA Cup and one league cup in his 10-year stay.

Steve McManaman

A very skilful winger that delighted the Kop for nearly a decade.

McManaman was pacy, a fantastic dribbler and contributed some very important goals during his time at Liverpool.

He played a very modest total of 364 matches, scoring 66 goals.

His career highlight must surely have been against Bolton Wanderers at Wembley, as he delivered a man of the match performance, scoring twice to give Liverpool the League Cup.

It soon earnt him a move to Real Madrid where he spent four years at the Bernabéu.

Luis Garcia

A legend in his own right, few had heard of Luis Garcia, a former Barcelona La Masia academy prodigy.

He made an immediate impact under boss Rafa Benitez, and played a critical role in giving Liverpool a fifth European Cup.

A stunning long-range goal against Juventus, followed by his famous ‘ghost goal’ against Jose Mourinho’s domestically dominant Chelsea in the semi-final set the platform for a blockbuster final against AC Milan.

Liverpool famously prevailing after a stunning come from behind 3-3 draw, before excelling 3-2 on penalties.

He also played his part in the 2006 FA Cup triumph against West Ham.

Although, he only stayed for three years at Anfield, he is now working as a club ambassador for the Reds and is a very recognised and popular retired player amongst fan legions.

Xabi Alonso

Another Spanish legend, alongside Luis Garcia, a stunning masterstroke of a signing from Benitez.

Alonso was one of the finest passers of the ball in world football.

He scored in the Champions League final from a saved penalty follow up to help Liverpool beat AC Milan and scored some outrageous goals from the halfway line and in his own half during his time at Liverpool.

It was a shame he only stayed five years after Real Madrid came calling, but it is not within the realms of impossibility that Alonso could one day return to Liverpool as boss and succeed Jurgen Klopp.

Watch this space.

Steven Gerrard

They often say save the best till last, and nothing could be more true for Captain Marvel Steven Gerrard.

He would often drag his boyhood team over the line, and from the depths of despair to an awe-inspiring victory.

His performance against Olympiakos in the Champions League, which dragged Liverpool through to the knockout stages by the skin of their teeth, helped his side go on to win the competition.

And who can forget the famous young Gerrard raising his hands and the crowd against Milan as he scored a towering header for Liverpool from 3-0 down to 3-1 to galvanise his teammates and supporters.

He then lifted the Champions League trophy by the end in stunning style.

A year later, against West Ham in the FA Cup final, a mesmerising long distance thunderbolt in the last minute helped Liverpool to go on and lift the trophy.

He is well accepted as truly the best midfielder to play for Liverpool Football Club.

Best of the rest

It wouldn’t be a list without a few honourable mentions.

Steve McMahon, was a dazzling player from the 80s and scored 50 goals in 277 appearances, which included three league titles and two FA Cup’s.

Ronnie Whelan was also another star midfielder who played 493 matches in over 10 years at the club.

Didi Hamman was a solid performer under Gérard Houllier and the German even helped mould and mentor the young Gerrard into the player he became.

Gary McAllister was an experienced smart signing by Houllier, and he played a key role in Liverpool’s famous 5-4 UEFA Cup win against Deportivo Alaves in 2001.

Javier Mascherano was one of the best defensive midfielders to play for Liverpool and had a wicked long range shot on him.

Barcelona came calling for him, but his talent was well recognised amongst Reds faithful.

And lastly, Philippe Coutinho who scored some stunning long-range drives during his time at Liverpool, before again, Barca snuck him off to the Nou Camp where he was never the same player.

But still one of the most gifted to play for Liverpool.

James Spencer

My name is James and I have supported Liverpool since I was 6 years old. My favourite players growing up were Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia. My most memorable match would be the UEFA Cup Final win over Deportivo Alaves that finished 5-4 to Liverpool! I am studying journalism in Manchester although I am a Liverpool fan through and through.

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