LFC Advent Calendar 5 – Daniel Agger
Daniel Agger is one of my all-time favourite Liverpool players. It wasn’t just because he was one of the best defenders in Europe at one point. It wasn’t even just because he created some truly special memories. It was because of his nearly unmatched devotion and loyalty to the club. There’s been very few players, especially non-local ones, who have worn the jersey with more pride than Agger.
The future Danish captain and Liverpool vice-captain arrived Brondby in 2006 and remained a valued and respected member of the club until his departure in 2014 after 232 appearances.
Nobody knew much about him when he signed, and his move to the reigning UCL champions came as a shock as he wasn’t linked with any other big clubs at the time. The fans soon found out everything they needed to know about him though. In his first full season at Anfield, he battled with Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher for a starting place, and when he did play, all doubts were soon cast aside.
In August of 2006 against West Ham, Agger ran with the ball and scored what went on to be Liverpool’s goal of the season. He blasted an unstoppable shot beyond the ‘keeper as it swerved into the Kop-end goal from over 35 yards out. This was the first in a long line of unforgettable Agger goals and memories.
Some other moments that stand out in my mind include a virtual repeat of his West Ham goal against Blackburn, after which, he paid tribute to the 96 as the game was played on the anniversary of Hillsborough. Battering Fernando Torres in his first game against Liverpool in a Chelsea shirt. His backheel finish against Benfica in the Europa League, which was an absolute treat. As well as his smooth finish against Chelsea in the 2006/07 Champions League semi-final.
Liverpool were down 1-0 on aggregate in that match, and Agger was tasked with the unenviable duty of keeping Didier Drogba quiet. This would become a regular and highly anticipated battle over the years, and one which Agger regularly got the best of. The Dane put in a man of the match performance in the biggest game of his Liverpool career up until that point and was the main reason Liverpool won the tie.
Of course, when you think of Agger, there are a few bad memories as well, although, almost all were injury-related. He suffered from hypermobility, which meant that his joints were prone to hyperextending, causing many of his injuries. He also endured terrible back pain from as early as 2007, but the problem worsened after an awkward fall in a 2008 pre-season game.
It was the regular occurrence of these injuries that held him back from going on to be an all-time great, but even with them, he reached dizzying heights. Nobody could argue that his susceptibility to injuries was down to a lack of toughness, as he and Martin Skrtel went on to form one of the most physically intimidating defensive partnerships of all time.
When fit, he was one of the first names on the team sheet under Rafa Benitez, but for some unknown reason, he was never valued as highly by most of the managers that followed the Spaniard. Roy Hodgson regularly benched him, although, given the people that Woy signed, his evaluation of a players talent has to be taken with a pinch of salt. It was around this time that Juventus, came calling, but once Kenny Dalglish took over, Agger didn’t hesitate in committing his future to the club he loved so dearly.
Unfortunately, Brendan Rodgers (another manager with questionable skills at evaluating players) then took charge of the club, and Agger was once again in the firing line. Rodgers would regularly blame his side’s defensive frailties on Agger, even though it was often his signings and tactics that were the problem.
Agger has said that his relationship with Rodgers completely broke down after a game against Southampton in 2013 when the defender played through an injury and was at fault for a goal.
“After the game he didn’t speak to me. I was the first to admit that it was my fault. I apologised, but as one of the physios said, there was no need to apologise.”
“Maybe Rodgers felt I wasn’t good enough and that Sakho, Touré and Skrtel were better than me. Then fair enough, because the most important thing is for Liverpool to win football games. That’s the most important thing for me too. But in 42 days I went from being first choice and the club’s new vice-captain to being fourth-choice centre-back.”
Things worsened as Agger’s frustrations boiled over during half-time against Swansea later in the season. The manager had been heavily criticising both Skrtel, but in particular, Agger for affording Wilfired Bony too much time and space.
“Everyone was quiet, but I stood up and said: ‘How can you stand there and say that when we’re only doing what you’ve been going on about all week?
“Rodgers looked at me and muttered: ‘Whatever.’ I was substituted 12 minutes later.”
That was his final season for Liverpool, but in a small piece of consolation, he managed to score an acrobatic goal in his last game in front of the Kop who’d adored him so much.
By the time that Rodgers had effectively run the fan-favourite out of the club, Agger had already turned down offers from Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester City during his time in Liverpool. These offers came during some of the clubs’ worst ever seasons under the likes of Hodgson. During one such period of speculation regarding his future, he responded by getting YNWA tattooed over his knuckles.
Agger ignored many standing offers from other teams after leaving Liverpool and decided to take a monumental pay cut to return to his former club, Brondby. His loyalty to Liverpool meant that he couldn’t imagine playing for any other team than the Reds, despite the way he was treated on the the way out.
In a farewell letter to the fans, Agger said,
“Liverpool have been such a big part of my life and my family’s lives for so long, that leaving is extremely difficult.
“I wouldn’t leave here to go anywhere else and that’s been proven by my actions in recent seasons – I’ve turned down many offers to move to other Premier League and European clubs.
“I would like to thank the Liverpool supporters for the incredible backing they’ve given me in my time here and the warmth, and generosity of spirit displayed to my family.
“The club itself is very special, and I’ll remain a supporter for the rest of my life. I regard every game played at Anfield as a privilege.”
The beating his body had taken over the years had well and truly caught up to him by now though, and he admitted that his later abuse of anti-inflammatory drugs put his health at risk. This abuse, in an attempt to not allow niggling injuries to stop him from playing, led him to have to be substituted only 29 minutes into a game, before later collapsing. He couldn’t move or control his body; he just laid on the ground shaking.
“I’ve taken too many anti-inflammatories in my career. I know that full well, and it sucks, but I did stop it [in the end].
“I’m not gaining anything personally from saying this, but I can only hope that other athletes do. It could be that others take a pill or two less.”
Soon after, Daniel Agger brought the curtain down on his playing career at only 31 years old. What could have been.
Thank you for your support.A great experience.It's sad,but it is the right decision to stop. I'm proud of my career. pic.twitter.com/Geu9y47vnN
— Daniel Agger (@DanielAgger) June 9, 2016
Agger meant so much to me as a fan during his tenure. His passion was infectious, and his loyalty during some of Liverpool’s darkest times was nothing short of admirable. His exit from the club was up there as one of the hardest departures to accept, and his decision to end his career at such a young age was heartbreaking.
Through no fault of his own, he was robbed of what could’ve been a legendary career. He’s still a legend in my eyes though. The injuries will stand firm in the minds of many, but it should never be forgotten how talented he was. I’ll always be grateful for everything he gave to the club.
When you think back on him, I hope you’ll have as many warm memories as I do of a man who lived, breathed, and bled Liverpool.
For all of these reasons and more, there won’t be many players that I love and respect as highly as Daniel Agger.