Continuing his series on Liverpool’s best players to wear each squad number, in the squad number era, The Anfield Talk’s Ian (@ianyoungkop) discusses our number 4’s…
Steve Nicol, Jason Mcateer, Rigobert Song, Sami Hyypia, Alberto Aquilani, Raul Meireles, Nuri Sahin, Kolo Toure, Virgil Van Dijk
The number 4 for me is one of the numbers potentially that could be won by the current wearer of the shirt. As with the previous articles with this series I’ll give you a short list of 4 potential suitors.
These will be…
Virgil Van Dijk
Now, I felt I had to put Steve Nicol in, as he’d been Mr. Consistency for pretty much 10 years for Liverpool playing in a number of positions. He was a fantastic full back and is one of those that would easily have been able to play in the modern game.
I’d describe him as John Arne Riise and Andy Robertson combined as one, as good as he was as running the line and defending, he always had a goal in him too. Winning the Football Writers Player of the Year, his ability was recognised in 1989. These days you are more likely to see him arguing with Shaka Hislop as a football pundit.
Next might be a surprise choice for some, but for two years, Jason Mcateer for me was a top class full back. The Bolton Wanderers central midfielder had caught the eye in the Coca Cola Cup Final between the two teams in 1995. He signed for Liverpool at the beginning of the 95/96 season and suddenly found himself playing as a right wing back. His strong stamina and combatant qualities made him perfect for the position, as well as his ability to pick out a striker with crosses without having to reach the byline.
Unfortunately for Jason, the arrival of Gerard Houllier and an unfortunate leg break eventually brought an early end to his Liverpool career. It was sad to see, as Jason was not only from Liverpool, he was a massive Liverpool supporter. After playing he’s gone on to make a good career for himself as a football pundit and tv presenter.
Next is Sami Hyypia who when originally signed was handed the number 12 shirt, but eventually went on to grab the number 4 jersey for Liverpool. Signed for £2.5m from Willem II at a time when Liverpool players had had to deal with the likes of Neil Ruddock, Phil Babb and Bjorne Tore Kvarme as centre backs, big Sami was a breath of fresh, not blessed with a huge amount of pace and less than graceful across the pitch, Sami’s reading of the game was almost Hansen like, and he had the build and strength of defenders past like Ron Yeats. He quickly became a fan favourite.
In a ten year span Sami as well as being named Liverpool captain for a couple of years, also popped up with the odd goal. Not many players in the modern game play anywhere for 10 years, especially not a top club like Liverpool. A key member of Liverpool’s treble winning season and Champions League triumph, Sami will forever come up in conversations about LFC’s best ever centre halves and deservedly so.
Next is the current holder of our number 4 shirt, Virgil Van Dijk. Has any other Liverpool signing in recent history had such an incredible impact? It takes a special kind of talent to get the plaudits he received in the past 12 months, it takes an incredible talent to be a defender and get them.
Signed in the January of 2018 and what seems now a bargain price of £75m, his impact was pretty much immediate. Where we’d spent recent seasons watching the likes of Skrtel, Sakho and Lovren and tried to convince ourselves these where top class defenders, the real deal had arrived. He is a leader at the back, he’s incredible in the air, unflinching with the ball at his feet on the ground, and I’m not sure whether I’ve ever seen a defender dive in less than him. The calmness and confidence he has in himself emits around the ground through his teammates to the fans.
You couldn’t put a price on Van Dijks worth to Liverpool right now, and not would you invite anyone to. If he was to help bring the holy grail of the Premier League title at any point, and he keeps this form going, you’d have to say, legend status reached.
So when it came to deciding who I think in my opinion was Liverpool’s best number 4 in the squad system era, it was pretty much down to two players, Sami Hyypia and Virgil Van Dijk and for me, as much as I loved big Sami, I’m going to have to go for Van Dijk. I’ve been going to Anfield for 30 years, and I genuinely can’t say I’ve seen a more complete package in a defender, as I’ve seen in Virgil. The guy is an anomaly, and I’m glad he’s wearing the number 4 of Liverpool. I know there’s a lot of you reading this who’d opt for big Sami and trust me, there was a lot of discussion with in myself to come to this conclusion!
Who would your choice be for the squad number 4?
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