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Well, the last vote was the closest. Hamann took second over Mascherano by five votes. I haven’t been closing the polls, so things might change, but I doubt it.
The team so far is:
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Riise
The next three votes – RM, LM, and second striker – are going to see some repeat names. Liverpool’s had a fair few players that could play anywhere along the line of three. Unless they win, I’m probably going to be listing Benayoun, Garcia, and Smicer more than once.
Once again, I could see this vote being quite close.
Yossi Benayoun (2007-present)
I hate to think how much worse this season could be without Benayoun. He’s often been the only goal threat in Torres’ absence. Even yesterday, when he flitted in and out of the game, he scored Liverpool’s lone strike. Already with three hat-tricks – as many as Gerrard has in his career – in three different competitions in less than three seasons, Benayoun’s proved a wonderful addition. Arriving at the same time as Babel, with much less fanfare, I don’t think I have to argue as to who’ll be the better player anymore.
Luis Garcia (2004-2007)
This. A thousand years of this. He had a few other screamers in his time as well, and was a surprisingly excellent header of the ball for someone only 5’7”. Garcia could be an absolutely brilliant little player or could utterly infuriate you with his giveaways. I still maintain that his injury in ’06-07 was a large reason that Liverpool took two steps back that season. He wanted to go back to Spain at the same time that Liverpool were negotiating with Benayoun, and Yossi’s been an upgrade, but I still miss little Luis.
Dirk Kuyt (2006-present)
It’s a bit tricky writing a glowing paragraph about Kuyt right now. He’s struggled on the right and up top, and has been even more disappointing than during the understandably difficult season when his father died. But I can’t help my soft spot for Kuyt. The official scapegoat prior to Lucas, he was easily one of the best wingers in the Premiership last season, with double-digit goals and assists. Despite long spells of profligacy, he’s a big game goalscorer – Everton, Arsenal (CL), Chelsea, and Inter, among others – who also provided some essential late winners last season. His workrate and tracking back is utterly crucial to the style of football Benitez wants to play, which is why he remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
Jermaine Pennant (2006-2008)
£6.7m isn’t anything to scoff at, but Pennant is what happens when you buy English on a budget. Playing for his supposedly favorite club never provided the maturity he needed, and a few decent performances in his first season – including an unbelievable goal against Chelsea and an arguable man of the match in the 2007 CL Final – were pretty much the highlight of his Liverpool career. For a fleet right-winger, he seemed to have just one pitch – the lofted back post cross – which only Crouch thrived on. I lost track of the number of times I screamed “RUN AT YOUR MAN” at the TV when Pennant was playing. It was little surprise to see him leave as soon as his contract ended, and I still hold a grudge for not leaving sooner, when Liverpool could have gotten a fee for him.
Vladimir Smicer (1999-2005)
Recruited to fill the void left by McManaman, Smicer’s injury problems and trouble adapting to English football saw him in and out of the squad over his entire Liverpool career. When he was fit – like during the treble season and the year after – he had some impressive moments: a winner against Chelsea in 2002 and excellent performances in European victories over Dortmund and Roma. Like many other squad players, he was essential to Liverpool’s ’04-05 Champions League campaign. Although Kewell got the nod in the final, Smicer replaced him a half an hour in, scoring the second goal with a speculative long-range effort, and tallying a crucial penalty in the shootout with the last kick of his Liverpool career.