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Liverpool’s search for the new Steven Gerrard still incomplete

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He was perhaps not as technically gifted as Kenny Dalglish or as decorated as other Anfield captains of the 70s and 80s, but Steven Gerrard was unparalleled in terms of importance and what he offered to the club during his 17 years on Merseyside.

He was also one infamous loss of footing away from achieving pretty much everything possible at his boyhood club and almost single-handedly secured Liverpool’s two biggest trophies of the Premier League era - the Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006.

His mere presence on the field was enough to give every Red hope, whether his side were in need of a late, great winner or his legendary leadership in desperate times.

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But now, with the Reds’ former captain announcing he may retire at some point next year, Jurgen Klopp and the rest of the club must try to fill the hole left at the heart of the Liverpool side by Stevie G’s departure last summer.

Philippe Coutinho

At first this may seem like a strange inclusion on this list as the diminutive Brazilian isn’t really of the same mould as Gerrard. However, over the last couple of years his game has improved in terms of work rate and physicality, and he has become much more of an all-round midfielder.

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Then there’s the fact that he is probably Liverpool’s most technically-gifted player right now, and he has added some outrageous long range strikes to his game, consistently getting his side out of jail when they’re struggling and proving to be the match winner on several occasions.

Now, consider that alongside his natural creativity and fantastic passing, he is still improving at the age of 23, and seems to gain more and more affection from the Anfield faithful every time he steps on the pitch and you can really see how comparisons between him and one of the club’s greatest ever players might be drawn.

However, there are drawbacks to heralding the Red magician as the club’s new living legend, particularly this early in his career. Firstly, he is a tad inconsistent, and has been known to seemingly vanish for large periods in some matches, and because of this is unlikely to ever be a genuine leader of men - can any Liverpool fans genuinely see him wearing the captain’s armband at Anfield?

Also, he does lack some of the qualities which meant Gerrard was so crucial to his side’s success for so long, including strength, toughness, grit and sheer will not to accept defeat.

And even if you don’t accept any of these as valid criticisms of Coutinho as Stevie G’s successor, then consider this: how long can Liverpool hold on to him?

Realistically, they have become something of a selling club over the past couple of years with players like Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling being tempted away. With Klopp’s side looking a bit of a way off Champions League football right now, and the No.10 already being linked with Barcelona on occasion, it is quite possible that he won’t be at the club long enough to fulfil the role of becoming the next Gerrard.

Jordan Henderson

Well, first up, this lad is clearly committed to the cause. He signed a new five-year contract at the end of last season and has blown away many of his critics since his arrival in 2011, rising through the ranks from a £20 million misfit to taking on the role as skipper when Gerrard departed in the summer.

Due to his marked improvement, particularly under Brendan Rodgers, he has also become a real fans’ favourite and has consistently shown his leadership qualities and raw passion on the pitch.

Not only that, but his reputation as an all-round, box-to-box midfielder who can pass, shoot, take set pieces, get stuck in and play in a number of positions has already drawn many comparisons to Gerrard.

However, despite the fact that he’s only 25, and can therefore still develop all of these traits further, it is difficult to see him actually being as crucial to Liverpool on and off the pitch as the former number eight.

Furthermore, when he was 25, Gerrard had already captained the Reds to Champions League glory, playing a pivotal role throughout the campaign and was subsequently named UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 2005, which is way beyond what Henderson has achieved in his time at Anfield thus far.

Emre Can

Can may be something of an unknown quantity on Merseyside, particularly because he spent most of last season playing out of his natural position at centre-back.

However, his time spent in the Liverpool defensive line at least highlights his immense versatility for such a young player, and at the tender age of 21 he has already shown examples of being able to drag his team up the field with his energy, power and superb dribbling.

Another positive for the German, especially in terms of cementing a long-term place in the squad, is that new manager Klopp seems to have taken a shine to him, playing him in a deep-lying position in midfield in big fixtures against Spurs and Chelsea, where he has impressed.

However, it could easily be argued that Can is not as accomplished as the previous two names considered, due to his lack of attacking endeavour (only two goals so far in over 50 games for Liverpool), and there definitely isn’t enough evidence to suggest that he comes close to Gerrard’s phenomenal passing range.

Overall, it may well be that Can continues to improve and becomes a big, big player at Anfield, but for the purposes of this debate, his playing style and preferred holding role in front of the defence would suggest there is no real comparison between him and Stevie G, purely because they are too dissimilar.

Joe Allen

Nope. Sorry Joe…

Jordan Rossiter

Admittedly the youngster is a complete wildcard thrown into this discussion, but his Scouse roots and rise through the Liverpool academy have excited Liverpool fans ever since he arrived on the scene last year. So he’s similar to Gerrard in terms of development, and he also made his debut and marked it with a goal at the age of 17, even younger than the maestro did.

Jurgen Klopp has already shown considerable faith in Rossiter, giving him 80 minutes against Bordeaux in the Europa League, and was repaid with a very solid performance from the LFC Academy Player of the Year in 2013-14. On Liverpool’s official website, he is described as having ‘an extensive passing repertoire with either foot and has an eye for goal too’, and captained the under-19s briefly. Remind you of anyone?

Miralem Pjanic

As a Liverpool fan, whenever this guy is linked with a move to Anfield, there is a genuine eagerness to hear more. Just in case you don’t much about the Bosnian maestro, here’s an example of what he can do: 

Now, that clip may be more likely to bring back memories of Xabi Alonso’s time on Merseyside, but there are also many similarities between Pjanic and Gerrard, which include his passing range, creativity, and sensational set-pieces, and if it wasn’t for the relative dip being experienced by the Serie A recently, he would probably be considered as one of the best playmakers in world football right now.

Furthermore, he is having a blinding start to the 2015-16 season, with 7 goals in just 13 games, this is already his best campaign in terms of goalscoring since he went to Roma in 2011.

However, there is one glaring difficulty involved in this player being moulded into the new Steven Gerrard, and that is the issue of persuading him to come to Liverpool in the first place.

He is currently plying his trade at a very solid Champions League outfit in Roma, with whom he also signed a new long-term contract last year. The chances of him leaving to play for the Reds does, therefore, seem unlikely, although the arrival of Klopp may at least tempt him should the gaffer decide to make a move for the 25-year-old.

Ilkay Gundogan

Two factors have forced a mention for this guy. Firstly, the arrival of his former boss Jurgen Klopp on Merseyside must have improved Liverpool’s chances of attracting a Dortmund star.

Then there’s also the fact that he has started the season extremely well after struggling with injuries, fitness problems and subsequently missed his country's World Cup campaign in Brazil.

He is clearly a very technically gifted player, particularly in terms of passing and dribbling, and also seems to possess Gerrard’s legendary composure from the penalty spot in big moments, judging by his finish in the 2013 Champions League final.

So, if the German can stay fit and continue his good run of form, then it seems entirely possible that he could link up with his former manager at some point in the near future. And yes, he does wear the No.8 shirt at Dortmund right now.

Nobody?

Unfortunately, none of the above candidates look like they can offer as much to the club, and do it for as long as Gerrard did. There have only been a handful of players in the last 20 years or so who have been able to do everything you could possibly expect from an all-round midfielder, and it is an elite list, which puts Gerrard alongside names such as Zinedine Zidane, Michael Ballack and Yaya Toure.

Can you honestly say that any of the players discussed in this article come close to being on that list of players who can do whatever is asked of them, and do it well?

Unlikely, which is why it may be quite a while before we see that famous No.8 shirt which Gerrard left behind being worn by somebody equally worthy.

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Topics:
Premier League
Jordan Henderson
Steven Gerrard
Liverpool
Joe Allen
Emre Can
Football
Philippe Coutinho

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