Former players who would have been brilliant Liverpool signings

The blog owner gave his writers this challenge a while back, asking which three former players we would have liked to see playing for Liverpool and never against us. I’m the first – and probably the only one – who will do a piece on the topic.

Let me start by mentioning Bryan Robson. This young West Brom midfielder was the only English player who looked half-decent when England took a hell of a beating against Norway at Ullevaal in 1981, losing 1-2 and being very lucky not losing by a larger margin. Young Bryan Robson scored a very good goal, and was signed by Manchester United right after that game. After a very successful 1980-81 season at West Brom, Robson scoring 10 goals in 40 games for his club which ended up as number 4 on the 1st division table, there were talks about who would sign him.

Would it be the new Manchester United boss Ron Atikinson or would it be Liverpool’s Bob Paisley? What exactly Bob Paisley was thinking, no one knows, but we did have a lot of great midfielders at the time, so Bryan Robson was eventually signed by former West Brom manager Ron Atkinson’s United on 1 October 1981, less than two weeks after he scored a tremendous goal against Norway at Ullevaal but ended up losing the important World Cup qualifying game anyway. From 1980 to 1991, he was capped by England on 90 occasions. As a Manchester United player Bryan Robson captained his club to three F.A. Cup trophies and a European Cup trophy as well. He also won the Premier League two times before taking on a new challenge, now as player-manager of Middlesbrough. Captain Marvel would be the first player I would have loved to see playing for The Mighty Reds and not by the other Reds straight east of Scouseland.

I shall have to mention another midfielder here. Paul Gascoigne was a natural talent at Newcastle as a youngster. From 1985 to 1988 the young midfield prodigy played 92 games for Newcastle United, scoring 21 goals. Gazza was named PFA Young Player of the year, and there were quite a lot of talk about which club would sign him: Manchester United or Liverpool?

Named Paul John Gascoigne in tribute to Paul McCartney and John Lennon, his fist and obvious choice was Liverpool but with no offer forthcoming, he promised Alex Ferguson he would sign for Manchester United. As Ferguson went to Malta on holidays, Tottenham Hotspur signed him for a British record fee of £2,2 million. After playing 92 games for Spurs and scoring 19 goals, Paul Gascoigne was signed by Lazio for a massive £5,5 million fee. The three-year Rome spell was marred by public scandals and injuries. I only wish he could have been signed by Liverpool in 1992. Such a deal would certainly have been better both for Gazza and for Liverpool Football Club. I will leave it at that.

Paul Gascoigne playing for England in the 1990s

Paul Gascoigne playing for England in the 1990s

The third former player I would like to mention is Thierry Henry. The French forward played for Arsenal from 1999 to 2007, scoring 174 goals in 254 appearances for the North London club at a time in which extremely good forwards were few and far between at Anfield. Okay, we did have Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, but Thierry Henry was something else. He reminded me of a certain Kenny Dalglish in the way he played up front. He could both score brilliant goals and make way for teammates to score simple tap-ins after he had made a brilliant pass. As an Arsenal player Thierry Henry won the League and F.A. Cup double in 2002. In 2003 he won the F.A. Cup. In 2004 he won the Premier League title again, and then won the F.A. Cup in 2005.

I can easily think of quite a few other English top division players I would have liked to see play for Liverpool and not against us. To name just a few: Osvaldo Ardiles, Gary Lineker, Stuart Pearce, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Roy Keane, Alan Shearer, David Ginola, Gianfranco Zola, John Terry. Oh, there are so many players to remember here.

I would like to end by mentioning three players who never played in the English league system, but were absolutely fantastic and would have been great stars in the Liverpool shirt. There are quite a few names to remember and embrace. To rattle off just a few names here: Eusebio, Johann Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Oleg Blokhin, Zbignew Boniek, Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten, Preben Elkjær, Michael Laudrup, Rune Bratseth, Rashidi Yekini. But I will make a point of three other players who never featured in the English league system.

First a strong Norwegian striker who – in England – is completely unknown, but was the father of the former Spurs striker Steffen Iversen. Odd Iversen was a terrific player from the late 1960s until the late 1970s. Problem is, Norway didn’t have a great national team back then. Norway had to beat England in 1981 in order to get players signed by English clubs in the first place. Einar Aas was the first, having been signed by Brian Clough to play for Nottingham Forest, ad soon after Åge Hareide was signed by John Bond to play for Manchester City. The first Norwegian player who should have been signed for a bagain price by an English football club – and preferrably so by Liverpool’s Bill Shankly or Bob Paisley – should have been Odd Iversen.

We all know some few things about his son Steffen Iversen, but the son was never even close to as good as his father was. Odd Iversen in his prime was kind of like the Norwegian Gerd Müller. He was very strong and fast. He could score goals from all angles, and he would shoot before taking time to think. He would also hit the target at quite an amazing rate, only for the goalkeepers to either save the attempt or let a ball go behind him.

Anyway, the thing is, Norway didn’t have a good national team as Odd Iversen was active. England wasn’t a country that used to sign foreign players in the early 1970s either. If Odd Iversen was born twenty-five years later than he were, he would certainly have been a big star in any foreign country: Germany, Italy, Spain or England, there can be no doubt about that. I would have loved to see quite a lot of video clips of Odd Iversen partnering Kevin Keegan and a young Kenny Dalglish from back in the 1970s. It would have been a massive sight.

Odd Iversen

Odd Iversen

Secondly Artur Antunes Coimbra – better known as Zico – an attacking midfielder or forward who was just fabulous playing for Flamengo and Brazil in the very late 1970s and the first seven years of the 1980s. Zico played for Udinese in Italy for two seasons. I would have loved to see him play for Liverpool from 1980 – 1984 or something, when the thrilling Argetinians Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa played for Spurs. Zico was a fantastic player.

He could score goals from all angles, he would run defences down and have complete knowledge of what was going on around him on the pitch. His free-kick goals are legendary. He scored countless free-kick goals both for club and country. He was dubbed The White Pelé, and really was just that. All he lacks is a World Cup champions medal. If he had had one, Zico’s name would have been regarded with exactly the same respect and awe as Diego Maradona is.

'Zico' in action for Brazil

‘Zico’ in action for Brazil

Third and last: Luis Figo. The Portuguese winger would have been a fantastic Liverpool player in the late 1990s. At his prime, Figo was a very fast, highy skilled winger who could dribble like a John Barnes (or even better), get crosses into the box and also score goals. Luis Figo was an assist machine we could have really needed back then, but he played first for Barcelona from 1995 – 2000 and then for Real Madrid from 2000 – 2005.

He has the second most assists in La Liga history after Lionel Messi. Just like John Barnes was as an older and not-so-fast player, Luis Figo was converted into a central midfielder with attacking playmaker role. He would pass balls to teammates wherever they were around him or inside the box, and he was also quite capable of taking long range shots himself to score. What a fantastic partner this player could have been for Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and all the others of his age to play alongside at Anfield and all other fields of play in England and Europe, wearing Liverpool’s all-red shirt.

Luis Figo

Written by @magneleokarlsen


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