Brendan Rodgers has a hugely exciting young squad at his disposal, as well as a number of experienced stars, but are any of them truly world class? Henry Jackson gives his verdict.
Everybody has a different view on what ‘world class’ is, which can often make a discussion about it pointless unless people outline how they define it.
In my opinion, a world class player is someone in and around the top 10 players in the world in their position. They have great consistency, outstanding quality and an ability to win a match for their side on a regular basis, whether that be from scoring memorable goals or producing defensive masterclasses at the back.
Liverpool have one of their strongest squads for many years- perhaps of the Premier League era even- with some wonderful talent at manager Brendan Rodgers’ disposal.
When you look closely at the squad though, do you see any world class players in it?
GOALKEEPER and DEFENCE
Simon Mignolet‘s form has been very much under scrutiny so far this season, and he has not turned out to be the top class ‘keeper some expected him to become when he replaced Pepe Reina in the summer of 2013. At 26, he is still young in goalkeeping terms, but there is a chasm between himself and the likes of Belgium teammate Thibaut Courtois, Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon.
Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno are both young full-backs with a lot of potential, with respected Spanish journalist Guillem Balague having very high hopes for the duo.
Moreno has the electrifying pace and attacking excellence to potentially challenge Jordi Alba for a starting berth for Spain over the next few years, while Manquillo’s more solid style is reminiscent of former Red Alvaro Arbeloa. Neither are in that top bracket yet, but it certainly can’t be written off in the future.
Martin Skrtel has been a very good servant to Liverpool since joining in 2008, but he has never quite reached the world class level that the likes of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia did. He remains a good Premier League player.
Dejan Lovren has had a shaky start to his time on Merseyside, and is still to convince many that he was worth the big-money move from Southampton. It is early days, however.
Mamadou Sakho is probably the Liverpool defender with the most potential to become world class, but at the moment he is a fair way from it. The France international does divide opinion hugely- his awkward style often does him a disservice- but at 24 he has plenty of time to improve.
He is tall, strong and underrated technically, and the fact that he was just 19 when he was made Paris Saint-Germain captain shows how highly he was thought of at a young age. He has a way to go, but don’t rule out Sakho’s game suddenly going up a notch. Whether that’s at Liverpool remains to be seen, however, having fallen out of favour of late.
The likes of Brad Jones, Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique and Kolo Toure are not really worthy of a mention.
Steven Gerrard was undoubtedly a world class player at his peak, and was widely regarded as one of the top two or three midfielders on the planet for several years. The 34-year-old is no longer the force he once was, however, with age understandably catching up with him.
Jordan Henderson is the most improved player at Liverpool over the last two years, and is maturing into a top class talent for both club and country. His box-to-box style and influence are not dissimilar to Gerrard in his prime, although the 24-year-old does lack the technical and creative brilliance of his teammate to make him world class.
The likes of Joe Allen, Adam Lallana and Emre Can are all very fine players in their own right, and while all three are at an age where they can still improve- Can in particular- they are still some way short of the best midfielders around.
If there is one player with the potential to not only become world class, but become one of the best in the world one day, it’s Raheem Sterling.
The 19-year-old is an unbelievably exciting prospect, and one who Liverpool will do well to keep hold of for many years. His pace, trickery, vision and goals make him a nightmare for any defender, and he can be equally devastating out wide or in a number 10 role.
Philippe Coutinho is another who has massive potential. The 22-year-old is blessed with wonderful natural ability, but if he is to become a truly world-class player he needs to improve the consistency and substance to his game.
Lazar Markovic is another who has great talent, and at 20 there is no reason why he can’t reach the heights many predicted of him while at Benfica. He is still very raw, however, and it’s probably too early to make a proper judgement on him after a below-par start to life on Merseyside.
The loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the summer was clearly a big loss, and although Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli are both certainly threatening to be among the top 10 strikers in world football, they fall short of the likes of the Uruguayan, Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Sturridge has been sensational since arriving from Chelsea in January 2013, and if he can keep up that form for another year or two he’ll have to be considered among the best. Balotelli, meanwhile, has all the ingredients to be a superstar, but needs to improve his consistency.
Players like Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert are nothing more than solid Premier League performers, with all due respect.
The thing that stands out when assessing the quality of each individual in Liverpool’s squad is just how much potential there is.
Sterling leads the way in that respect, and has the world at his feet, but the likes of Sakho, Coutinho, Markovic and Moreno also have the ability to become world stars in future years.
There is not one genuinely world class player in Rodgers’ ranks currently though, with Sterling and Sturridge perhaps the closest in that respect.