Liverpool’s investment in South American talent has been a bit hit and miss to be honest. However, it is fair to say, that when we have got it right the effects have been memorable and spectacular.
With a combination of grit, flare, passion and real quality, the best products of that football mad continent have been almost tailor made for the Kop. Here’s a look at five of our best imports.
5. Javier Mascherano -139 apps – 2 goals
When Rafa Benitez rescued Javier Macherano from a bizarre six month stint at West Ham, Kopites everywhere were rightfully delighted. He was the perfect plugin for Rafa’s counter attacking machine.
The wild-eyed lad from River Plate was a tough tackling, hard working menace in front of the back four. His excellent reading of the game allowed him to mop up any danger before it became a real threat and allowed his more technically gifted colleagues to unleash the counter. He was soon one of the best in the world in his position as Liverpool flourished under Benitez.
His temper could be a problem at times and you frequently feared an implosion, but he would have lost an awful lot from his game with his wonderful passion. A truly memorable player from an enjoyable era for the club and his exit in 2011 really hurt.
4. Lucas – 346 apps – 7 goals
Has anyone been more universally popular than the boy from Brazil in recent years? Yes there have been more technically gifted players, but few have been as genuinely committed to the club as Gremio’s finest.
Luccas showed real grit and thick skin to get through a pretty awful start to his Liverpool career. It wasn’t that he was a bad player on the pitch, quite the opposite. It was in fact, the fans he had to win over. A vociferous segment of the supporters targeted Lucas as their favorite scapegoat. Any time a pass would go astray or a chance missed, the groaning and winging was tenfold whenever Lucas was the culprit. Despite this negativity, the Brazilian international endured and went on to become one of our most solid midfielders. The fact he stayed committed during a pretty awful era for the club was a mark of his obvious love for the fans and club.
Reading the game well and playing with a refined discipline and smart passing, he was able to cover a lot of ground despite lacking real pace. He also fought back from two serious knee injuries to regain his place in midfield and offer wonderfully committed service to the club. Rightfully forged his place as a club legend.
3. Philippe Coutinho – 201 apps – 54 goals
From day one, it was clear we had signed an absolute belter of a player when Rodgers and the committee beat off Southampton for the services of Philippe Coutinho. The little Brazilian possessed wonderful skill, quick feet, and a sharp eye for a pass. His display against Swansea early on in his career at Anfield had the fans purring at what was to come.
Despite a few patchy runs of form, Coutinho improved significantly to become one of the most creative players in Europe. He was also a proven match winner, with his trademark cut in and dipping shot from distance being pretty much unstoppable when executed to perfection.
His goal at Old Trafford in the Europa League was also a reminder of just how quick those feet are as De Gea literally sat down and watched as he was bamboozled by the little man’s close control. A truly top talent, its a shame he couldn’t have hung on for Kiev.
2. Bobby Firmino – 149 apps – 52 goals
What a gem of a player we have in Bobby Firmino. The lad who forged his skills on the tough streets of Maceio has won over everyone at Anfield. He is the heart beat of our attacking play and like all top players, is blessed with football intelect that gains him an extra couple of yards.
Bobby has been involved in a staggering 93 goals since his arrival from Hoffenhiem in 2015. More than the numbers though, his movement, speed of thought and work rate are integral to Klopp’s high pressing game. Firmino is the pivot that allows Salah and Mane such room and supply. He also has an eye for the spectacular and outright cocky, with his “no look” trio of finishes last season earning him even more adulation.
It is no coincidence that as the club has blossomed as Bobby has gone up a level, lets hope he can take us back to the summit once more!
1. Luis Saurez 132 apps – 82 goals
Number one on this list and a reasonable shout for number one on any list of Liverpool players.
Some might say that’s a bold shout, but then Suarez was a player like no other to have played for Liverpool. He was a force of nature, with such ferocious skill and drive that left any would-be defender dumbfounded. Like Bobby, half of his speed, came from his wonderfully mad football brain. He played with a fierce will and pure enjoyment that was clear to see and the fans lapped up every minute of his time at the club.
Has there been a display of individual brilliance to match Luis Suarez as he shone so brightly in 13/14? Almost on his own, with 31 goals in 33 games, he dragged an otherwise unremarkable Liverpool team to within two games of the title.
We were blessed to watch a man at the true peak of his talents that year. Like all great forward players, Suarez was able to score all manner of goals and make them look easy. His Anfield demolition jobs over Arsenal, Norwich and Everton in that oh so nearly epic season, were works of football beauty.
Yes he did some unsavory bits during his tenure and left Sir Kenny in an unwinnable position in 2012, but we must remember Uruguay’s greatest for the football and pure joy he treated us to for three and a half seasons in Red.