After Steven Gerrard retired from international duty, it has lead me to thinking, who would be the most suitable candidates to replace Gerrard for Liverpool when he inevitably retires from club level football?
Loyalty to a club is something hard to come by these days in football, yet after a career spanning 15 years, Liverpool has been Gerrard’s one club. Having been through the ups of Istanbul, and the downs of the well documented Chelsea incident last season, he has been through it all. He’s at the tender age of 34 and over the past 3 seasons, it looks as though his bursting runs from deep and his box to box play style has took its toll on his legs. Gerrard’s mobility and pace has been deteriorating over a few campaigns now, but his ability has remained. Brendan Rodgers has recognised this diminishing physicality and switched the captain’s role to a new deep lying playmaker position, involving less running to preserve him, yet playing to his strengths of being an accomplished passer. It is a sad thought for all Liverpool fans to think that in the next few years there will be a team sheet without the Captain Fantastic’s name on it.
Typically, a team may look to the vice captain as the natural candidate to step up and succeed as the leader, however Liverpool’s vice captain Daniel Agger might be leaving the Merseyside club this transfer window. Barcelona are rumoured to be preparing a bid to land the Danish international, and the fact that his restaurant and home are up for sale in Liverpool, adds fuel to these rumours. The Scandinavian centre-back has been an unbelievable servant to the club; being consistently one of the clubs best performing defenders, as well as displaying great loyalty by sticking with the club in times of need. Nonetheless his last campaign was one of real disappointment. Agger only made 20 appearances in the league, mainly due to injury but a lot was due to the fact that he just wasn’t good enough. When it comes to defending against big, physical strikers such as Bony, Benteke and Lukaku, Agger just doesn’t seem to have the strength to do an effective job that Sakho might otherwise do.
Mamadou Sakho is another potential candidate to take the captain’s armband. Despite only being at the club for a year, and being restricted to just 18 league appearances, it is clear for all to see that the French international has all the skills and attributes to be a leader from the back. Despite his awkward playing style, he always seems to get the job done. Whether it be dealing with a high ball in the box, or a one on one with a forward, he consistently comes out on top, whilst at the same time, makes as few mistakes as possible; showing he can lead by example. Sakho also has previous experience at being a leader, having captained PSG at the age of just 17. He currently holds the record for being the youngest ever captain of the club and also the youngest player to captain a club in Ligue 1. This shows he has demonstrated leadership qualities from a young age and this can only get better the more games he experiences. His experience doesn’t end at club level though, he also wore the armband for the French U-21 national team. Having impressed at the World Cup in Brazil, his international playing time should also only increase. At only 24 he still has plenty more time to establish himself as a true leader.
My personal preference to get the captaincy once Gerrard retires, would be Jordan Henderson. I know my opinion may seem a bit controversial, however I honestly believe the Geordie midfielder has what it takes to lead this massive football club. Despite a tricky first season in a Liverpool shirt, Jordan Henderson has showed a great deal of grit and determination, to mature himself into an accomplished footballer and from then, he hasn’t looked back. He has gone from strength to strength and drastically improved his skills into becoming a very good young player. Under the wing of Gerrard, I believe that Henderson will be nurtured further into taking up the role of captaincy and when the time comes around, he will be fully equipped with the knowledge of how to lead the club. A lot of Liverpool fans would agree that Jordan Henderson’s sending off against Manchester City was a major factor in the eventual failure to win the Premier League. This shows the extent to which he influences the Liverpool team already. Once he was out of the squad, Liverpool lost a lot of the pressing element to their play, as they no longer had the engine of Henderson patrolling the midfield area, putting the opposition under pressure when they had the ball.
Overall this decision lies with Brendan Rodgers at the time of Gerrard’s retirement, and who he thinks deserves the honour of leading this great club. At 34, Gerrard still has a year or two left in him before he should start to think about ending his playing career, however Rodgers should remember, its never too early to be prepared.