Symposium #11 – Best Opposing Player Ever?

Symposium #11 – Best Opposing Player Ever?
March 8, 2013 Paul Tomkins

This week we asked ‘who’s the best opposition player you’ve ever seen playing against Liverpool?’ That included in-the-flesh or on TV. To be clear, it’s players who were great against Liverpool, rather than players who were great and also played against Liverpool!

Here’s what they had to say:

By Joe Pepper:

In the 15 years or so when I went to watch LFC almost every week, there were three players who I always recall standing out. Seeing them play in the flesh gave me an appreciation of their quality I hadn’t taken from other sources. The three players? In chronological order – Tony Adams, Matt Le Tissier, and Gary McAllister.

In Graeme Souness’s second full season in charge of the reds, Arsenal made an early season visit to Anfield. They won the game 2-0 and Ian Wright grabbed all the headlines. But I was amazed by Adams’ brutal domination of the Liverpool front line. Whilst showing almost zero finesse on the ball, he made up for it with utter ruthlessness in defence. He may have been the definitive donkey turned tv sofa existentialist, but Adams was the ultimate old school out and out defender. He is exactly what the Liverpool defence currently lacks.

There are so many cliches about Le Tissier. Lazy, fat, languid, diabolical genius. Well, sometime around 1994 Southampton lost 4-2 at Anfield thanks to Robbie Fowler, but I recall Le Tissier being a lazy, fat, languid diabolical genius. I think he scored both Southampton goals, but my main recollection was that every time he got the ball, he just dribbled it on his own past our entire defence at and had a shot. It was ridiculous. What a player.

And finally, the one and only Gary Mac. During the (I think) Houllier era McAllister came to Anfield with an ageing Leeds side and played alongside the late Gary Speed in the centre of midfield. Seemingly about 47, McAllister made our midfield look horrendously out of their depth, which they were (thinking back, maybe this performance prompted his signing). The amazing thing about McAllister was he was clearly someone at the end of his career, except he wasn’t. He went on to play for several more years, gaining a fond place in the memory of all reds. Was his goal at Goodison one of the greatest of all time?

That game when Leeds came to Anfield, they won 1-0. In the first half, McAllister had the ball drilled at him waist height with his back to goal 30 yards out. In one touch he killed the ball dead whilst also flicking it over his shoulder. He spun round and nonchalantly cracked a dipping volley off the crossbar at the Kop end. The Kop applauded.

Three great players, but if I had to pick one. McAllister. The Scottish Pirlo.

By Alex Tate:

For me, a player I have always admired.

For eight years Theirry Henry made himself a nuisance in the Premier League for everyone, and through this he became a legend at the Library. 174 goals in 254 games is evidence of a scoring return on a par with the very best. The many honours his ability brought Arsenal proving his success, a destiny with greatness, peaking with invincibility.

With team mates the calibre of Bergkamp, Viera and Pires you can ungraciously suggest it was easy to look good or to contribute goals in that unbeatable Arsenal side, but please sit back and admire. Henry could get the ball in the net from many angles, thorough various applications of power and precision from his athletic 6ft 2 stature.

Wenger said of the laidback Frenchman: “Thierry Henry could take the ball in the middle of park and score a goal that no one else in the world could score.” True, and he never seemed to break sweat whilst doing it. Have you ever seen anyone this cool at one on ones? The opposition defence would look like daydreamers as he would slowly drift offside, then step back onside before the ball is played, then accelerate away, often to slip the ball into the net. Yet, with a reported 106 assists at Arsenal, Henry was also a great provider.

Footballers talk is often cheap but when Henry said he’d only leave Arsenal for Barcelona, I believe there was some respect towards the Gooners by joining a team with similar beliefs in play to those Wenger preached. He also spoke well of the Anfield faithful, though I never felt he’d be lining up next to Stevie G for pre-game handshakes.

A player of grace, skill and cunning all wrapped up in Gallic nonchalance. One of the few players to genuinely earn his money in a business where it is thrown at the inadequate.

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