Jamie Carragher had his testimonial yesterday at Anfield. A well-deserved slice of recognition for a player who’s been a relative mainstay of what can only be (sickeningly) described as the Premier League Years™, at least since his 1997 debut.
A one-club player since he joined Liverpool’s academy in 1990, despite his roots as an Evertonian, Carragher was heralded by a whopping 35,361 fans (Anfield 78% full): the part-time glory-hunting muppets down the M62 managed sell-outs for the testimonials for Keane and Giggs. But enough of Carragher’s underappreciated contribution to Liverpool’s cause over the years: what of him as a footballer?
Since the notion of “Premier League history” is frankly nauseating, here’s a couple of the league’s top defenders since Carragher’s appearance on the scene in 1997.
Rio Ferdinand – Now, there’s a small chance that Ferdinand is a massive tool. OK, he IS a massive tool. From his embarrassing record label, to his contradictory anti-gun stance and involvement in violence-glamorising film Dead Man Walking, Ferdinand is a walking disaster.
He also lost out on eight months of his career due to a more-than-a-little-suspect missed drugs test. But despite all this, he is a quality centre-back. He looked a little defensively shaky in his early years at West Ham and Leeds, but it’s something he ironed out over the years to become an excellent defender. He’s started to regress recently, however, and I think his best years are behind him now.
Ashley Cole – Not an embarrassing media idiot like Ferdinand, but put simply, an ‘orrible bastard. The player that everybody (well, perhaps not Chelsea fans) loves to hate, Ashley Cole is realistically one of the best full-backs in the world; for my money, the best left-back going.
Excellent defensively as well as going forward, Cole has been a Premier League mainstay over the years, with good reason. He also seems to have Cristiano Ronaldo’s number like no-one else in the world: whether it was for Portugal or United, Ronaldo always struggled up against Cole.
Sami Hyypiä – In a futile attempt to avoid accusations of Anglo-centrism and anti-Liverpool bias, I’m throwing Hyypiä into the mix. I really rated him when he was at Liverpool, and he was a real leader for the side. Signing in 1999, he was captain by 2001, lifting the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and Worthington Cup in the 2000-01 season. Now at Bayer Leverkusen, there was talk of Hyypiä returning to Merseyside to link up with Hodgson, whom he had played under for Finland, but it never materialised.
Personally, I don’t think Carragher is ‘up there’ with the best defenders of his generation. I realise he’s a hero at Liverpool (an adoration that doesn’t stretch to a decent turn-out for his testimonial, mind) and a model professional, but from a technical standpoint, can’t claim to be amongst the best of recent times. Premier League great? No chance.
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