by Dominic (@Frankly2Shankly)
Eyebrows were initially raised when Liverpool signed the veteran midfielder from Coventry City in 2000, but now he is seen as, arguably, the most inspired piece of business in Gerard Houllier’s tenure. Aged 35 at the time, the ex-Scottish international injected some valuable experience into a side which went on to claim a historic treble in his debut season. McAllister is perhaps best remembered for his last-gasp winner vs Everton in 2001 – scoring an audacious 40-yard-free kick in added time.
Signed that same summer from Leicester City, the stopper was part of the Liverpool squad which won three trophies in his debut campaign. Brought in as an understudy for Sander Westerveld, Arphexad fell further down the Anfield pecking order following the arrival of Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland. He subsequently finished his stay having made just two Premier League outings for the club.
Another ingenious acquisition by Houllier. Babbel arrived in England having won nine trophies with German giants Bayern Munich. The full-back was a revelation with the Reds, providing attacking imputes down the flanks. Illness brought his time on Merseyside to an abrupt end; nevertheless, he added a further five medals to his impressive collection.
A high-profile January addition in 2001, his signature was a source of excitement for Liverpool fans. However, the former Ballon d’Or nominee ultimately failed to showcase his best form to the Kop on a consistent basis. By no means a flop at Liverpool, injuries and subsequent struggles to nail down a place in Houllier’s first XI meant that he only showed mere glimpses of his unquestionable quality.
After winning two league titles together at Valencia, Rafa Benitez brought the former Argentina international with him to Anfield in January 2005. A trusted defender in La Liga, Pellegrino was 33 when he made the switch to England and made just twelve unconvincing Premier League appearances before returning to Spain.
Perhaps one of the more difficult Liverpool signings to assess. Zenden joined the freshly crowned European Champions in 2005 after an impressive season in the Premier League with Middlesbrough. The Dutchman’s time at the club was plagued with injuries, but when he was fit, he was a trusted member of the squad for Rafa Benitez. He even started in the 2007 Champions League final.
January 2006 marked the second coming of God, as Robbie Fowler made an emotional return to the club he left in 2001. Sentimentality aside, the striker may have been a shadow of his former self, but he still managed to net 12 goals in 39 games (largely from the bench).
Another player who enjoyed domestic success in Spain with Benitez, Aurelio became the first Brazilian to join the club in 2006. The left-back spent six injury-hit years on Merseyside, managing just 87 league outings. When he was fit, Aurelio was excellent though. A set-piece specialist, he could certainly deliver a pin-point ball and he even netted a goal or two.
A seasoned international and a consistent performer in the Bundesliga, Liverpool snapped up the striker in 2007. The Ukrainian’s time in England was a forgettable one though. Voronin managed just six goals in 40 appearances for the Reds and was swiftly moved on by Benitez after an array of derisory displays.
Brought in to replace the departing Steve Finnan, the ex-Swiss international made his name in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. The right back’s career in England never really took off though; Degen was perpetually injured and consequently made just 13 unconvincing outings for Liverpool over two years.
A star at the 2006 World Cup, Maxi Rodriguez signed for the club three-and-a-half years later to become one of Rafa’s final pieces of transfer business at Liverpool. He turned out to be one of his shrewdest acquisitions too. His best showings came in a purple patch under Kenny Dalglish, where he memorably enjoyed a goal-glut in finding the back of the net seven times in just three games. It’s a shame the Argentine didn’t arrive at Anfield earlier in his career.
The forward reportedly rejected the advances of Real Madrid in favour of a move to Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool in 2010. Despite the Spanish manager’s departure shortly after, Jovanovic opted to honour his agreement with the Reds. However, with Roy Hodgson at the helm, the Serbian endured a difficult time with a struggling Liverpool side. He failed to score a single Premier League goal before leaving the following year.
Liverpool believed that they had pulled off one of the biggest transfer coups in the club’s recent history when they signed Joe Cole. As it turned out, seeing red on his league debut was just about the only memorable thing he did during his short spell at Anfield. A disappointing stint for a player Steven Gerrard had once compared to Lionel Messi, to say the least.
Identified as the ideal back-up to Pepe Reina, the Brazilian had been capped ten times for his country and had played nearly 200 games for Roma before he joined Liverpool in 2011. The keeper went on make just four Premier League outings for the Reds though – and was sent off and conceded a penalty in one of them.
The Welshman had already had a mixed one-season stint with Liverpool but returned to the club four years later for a second more fruitful bite of the cherry. The forward claimed his first piece of silverware in England by winning the 2012 League Cup and was chiefly one of Liverpool’s more consistent performers in a turbulent campaign for the club.
A title winner with both Arsenal and Manchester City, the veteran defender opted to move to Liverpool after the retirement of club legend Jamie Carragher in 2013. In the autumn of his career, the ex-Ivory Coast international did provide some much-needed experience to a largely youthful Liverpool side. They challenged for the title in his maiden campaign and he becamea firm fan favourite with the Anfield faithful.
The ex-Leeds midfielder injected some valuable experience, a winning-mentality and leadership to the ranks in 2015 – particularly after club captain Steven Gerrard’s recent departure. His level of consistency can largely be attributed to the fact that he is the fittest member of the squad (despite being 34). And the fact that he played a whole season at left-back pays tribute to his versatility and team ethic. A manager’s dream, every successful squad needs a player like James Milner.
Simon Mignolet needed someone to push him for his place between the sticks, yet the 2015 signing of the former-Bolton stopper was a surprise selection. With Mignolet struggling for form, Bogdan was briefly brought into the fold by Jürgen Klopp to give the Belgian some respite. The Hungarian’s introduction only exacerbated the situation though, and he was dropped after a comedy of high-profile errors. He made just six outings during his time at the club.
The ex-Schalke defender drew the plaudits in his first season in England, but injury and some patchy form in his second raised some question marks over his ability. Such fears were emphatically allayed last year though, as Matip became a key component in a Liverpool side that accumulated 97 points in the Premier League and won its sixth European Cup. As far as free transfers go, they don’t get much better than the former Cameroonian international.
It’s fair to say that the Spanish stopper has had mixed reviews in his time as Liverpool’s number two goalkeeper so far. The ex-Hammer’s costly errors led to his club exiting the FA Cup and the Champions League in quick succession; on the other hand, he helped his new employers win the European Super Cup just days after his arrival and he featured eleven times in the league as the Reds claimed their first title in three decades.
Verdict: Jury Still Out