By his own admission, Jamie Carragher was never the most talented defender. But talent in this sport is often far too overvalued over other qualities of a player. For defenders in particular, where some of the most legendary careers have been forged on pure grit and determination.
Carragher is one such case. To be perfectly clear, this not to say that he was not a top talent because he certainly was. One doesn't start at centre-half for Liverpool football club for over 15 years on mental strength alone. It's more that his mental prowess set him apart from others with a similar aptitude.
As the saying goes, there can be no sentimentality in football. Yet, football is often the most sentimental sport when it comes to someone as loyal and as devoted to the cause as Carragher has been his entire life. If there is still that snide caveat by opposing fans regarding his Evertonian roots, it should then speak even volumes of his professionalism to have given every inch of his being for his red employers.
Ultimately however, the old adage stands true, and any considerations for a player of his age to stay on another year should be purely for football-related reasons and not because supporters feel that he deserves it on a sentimental basis.
Carragher's decline from his best could be argued to have started from a while ago, dating back to the penultimate days of Rafa Benitez's reign. The likes of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel received the starting minutes and have been ahead of the scouser in the pecking order for some time since. And when Carragher did play, his appearances were in lesser profile games, and often sparing in nature.
Like all footballers, continuity in the starting line-up keeps defenders sharp and brings out their best. In addition to not playing very often, and the fact that there have been two manager changes since Benitez's departure, it is no surprise that Carragher's decline has been swift and unspectacular.
And thus many have been expecting a gut-wrenching, but necessary retirement since King Kenny's reign. After all, if Dalglish's more direct style couldn't galvanise a defender who has played in the most English manner possible for the last 20 years, then who could?
For the early part of the season, it has seemed as though Carragher was finally a washed up, old defender unviable for another season because of a likely inability to adapt to a more deliberate passing game deploying a high back line. Where Brendan prefers his defenders to pass, Carragher prefers to hoof. It just didn't seem that despite Rodgers' well-publicised admiration for the man, the compatibility would be there for the player.
2013 has shown otherwise. With a recent resurgence and consecutive starting appearances, Carragher's combative qualities combined with a canny anticipation he's always had is starting to pay dividends for Liverpool. Oddly enough, the defenders who have had the latest troubles adjusting to Brendan's style have been the faster and younger Agger and Skrtel. Both are solid defenders and even world-class on their day, but they have been culpable of as more errors this season than Carragher that had ruled him out of the lineup earlier on.
Naysayers might be quick to point out his recent gaffe in Liverpool's final Europa League game, but others would give him due credit for having performed very well otherwise. He remains well-aware of his age-related weaknesses, and frustratingly to some, he will often retreat where Jose Enrique would charge. But this balance of conservative defending and aggressive defending can be beneficial for Liverpool as shown by the games that he has started in recently.
Putting aside how opinions of his future may differ, the current reality is that Carragher is Liverpool's most trusted defender at this point in time, simply based on starts in the past month and visible evidence of good form. And at the very least, its clear that none of the other defenders possess his 'die for the club' mentality, which as shown in Istanbul, can be more important than physical superiority.
If the old warhorse is able to adapt himself somewhat to an unfamiliar style of football, no doubt being fined (for clearing the ball) on a regular basis by Rodgers in the process, it's perfectly reasonable to see him being even better adapted next year.
As it stands, Agger and Skrtel have not found the same consistency and run of form they had under Dalglish. Sebastian Coates is not fully integrated yet, and Andre Wisdom is difficult to see as a starting centre-back next season.
In a time where Carragher has finally found a decent run of form, Liverpool supporters have to wonder whether Carragher has any more to offer as a squad member next season from a purely footballing perspective.
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