15 Oct 2009

BEST EVER TEAMS - No 1: Liverpool's Greatest World XI

Liverpool FC has been blessed with dozens of talented footballers over the years, many of whom came from abroad to dazzle Anfield with sublime skills and superb technique. But who makes the best ever World XI?

The history of overseas footballers at Liverpool starts way back in the mid 1920s, with arrival of two South African players: Arthur Riley in 1925 and Gordon Hodgson in 1926. Goalkeeper Riley was originally brought in as an understudy for the great Elisha Scott, but by the end of the 1928/29 season he had established himself as Liverpool's number one. Riley spent 15 years at Anfield, racking up 338 appearances and playing an integral role in cementing the club's status in the top division.

With a superb record of 241 goals in 358 games, Hodgson is second only to Roger Hunt in the all-time LFC league goals chart, something which may come as a surprise to a few Liverpool fans.

The South African connection continued with the arrival of Berry ‘Nivvy’ Nieuwenhuys, a tricky winger blessed with speed and guile. In pre-war England, overseas players were almost unheard of in the top division, so Liverpool were pace-setters and pioneers in this respect. However, after Nieuwenhuys left Liverpool in 1947, it was (incredibly) 34 years until another overseas player made an impact at Anfield.

That man was Bruce Grobbelaar, who despite a shaky start between the sticks against Wolverhampton Wanderers, won the league title with Liverpool in his first season. Two weeks after Grobbelaar arrived at Anfield, Craig Johnston - another South African (by birth) - signed for the club, and also made his debut in the Wolves game. Three years later, supremely talented Dane Jan Molby arrived at the club, and the three proceeded to play a major part in Liverpool’s domination of the 80s.

Other overseas players began to trickle in after that, with notable arrivals including Israeli powerhouse Ronnie Rosenthal; Elegant Swedish International Glenn Hysen and criminally underrated Norwegian assist specialist Stig Inge Bjornebye.

Over the last 10 years, the number of overseas players at the club has increased at a faster rate than at any time in history, with players such as Sami Hyypia, Xabi Alonso, Dietmar Hamann, Luis Garcia, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres playing hugely important roles in Liverpool’s continuing progress.

Here is my greatest ever Liverpool World XI:*

---------------------------------- Bruce Grobbelaar

Markus Babbel -- Stephane Henchoz -- Sami Hyppia (c) – Stig Inge Bjornebye

----------------------------------- Dietmar Hamann

------------ Jan Molby -------------Xabi Alonso -------- Patrik Berger

------------------------------- Jari Litmanen

-------------------------------------------- Fernando Torres


Jose Reina
Glenn Hysen
Craig Johnstone
Luis Garcia
Gordon Hodgson
John Arne Riise
Daniel Agger
Yossi Benayoun
Ronnie Rosenthal

The team would play a 4-1-3-1-1 formation, with Dietmar Hamann sitting in front of the back four, allowing Xabi Alonso, Jan Molby and the superb Jari Litmanen to utilize their prodigious passing ability to feed Fernando Torres, who would be overwhelmed by the amount of scoring chances created for him!

Patrick Berger and Stig Inge Bjornebye would provide width on the left, whipping in crosses for Torres and Litmanen. Some may see Bjornebye as a surprise inclusion, but in the mid 90s, the Norwegian was regularly top of the club’s assists chart and was a model of consistency.

And who can forget the sublime cross he provided for Robbie Fowler to score the winner in the second 4-3 Newcastle thriller in 1997?

Markus Babbel would provide bombing runs down the right, adding an extra level of creative impetus, which would then give the team two strong attacking full-backs.

Central defence is a no-brainer; it has to be Stephane ‘hand-ball’ Henchoz and Finland’s finest export, Sami Hyypia. Before Jamie Carragher came on the scene, the Henchoz/Hyypia partnership was quite simply the best in the league.

The substitutes bench is filled with players who would come on change the game and/or help the team change shape to counter any tactical eventuality. Special mention has to go to powerful, athletic Israeli Ronnie Rosenthal.

Few can forget the impact Rosenthal had when he arrived in the final months of the 89-90 season - scoring a hat-trick on his full debut and going on to score 7 goals in 8 games - goals which were vital to Liverpool securing the title.

I believe the team I have chosen would be a joy to watch and would give any team in Liverpool’s history a run for its money!

What's your greatest World XI?

*This is a team composed of OVERSEAS players, i.e. NON UK/British Isles players.


Join the site's new Facebook page!

Become a fan on Facebook!


  1. I have always thought you were clueless Jamie but your exclusion of Stevie G from your greatest XI prove me right. not even a place on the bench. has he upset you by slating the Yanks you so avidly adore?

  2. Jari Litmanen!?!  Ok, he was class at Ajax but he did nothing at Liverpool.  If it's to do with their Liverpool career, he would not be anywhere near the side.

    I would go with:


    Babbel               Hyypia  Henchoz         Riise

                             Alonso     Hamann

                  Johnston                      Molby


  3. <span>Ah, the irony!</span>

    <span>I guess you missed the fact that this is a WORLD XI, i.e. a team composed of OVERSEAS players, i.e. NON UK players. </span>

    This is explicitly stated at the end of the post.

    And I'm clueless? ;)

  4. Guys Ireland isnt in uk.....so what about Ronnie Whelan.....and mark Lawro 

  5. Yeah Litnmanen is the only real point of contention in your team Jaimie. I dont imagine you'll get much of a debate today! Unless many more people like our man above don't bother to even read your article.

  6. Gary :READ THE F***IN ARTICLE !!!!!

  7. Sorry Gary I meant that for the guest comment above you!!! Sorry

  8. ireland is not in UK....did you go to school........

  9. You are technically right but I thought it was clear that JK wanted a side comprising of players from beyond our shores let's say.  Whelan would walk in my side otherwise and I would have had McAteer or Finnan in front of Babbel.

  10. that ok...i thought I was cracking up there

  11. Bruce
    Morienties.....(if only he was as good as he could have been) 

  12. eh what about heighway,lawrenson,beglin,whelan

  13. That's right, Warren - I should have been clearer: No players from the British Isles - only overseas players. I've amended the post.

  14. I'm out fpor the day Jaimie. Good luck with it......got a feeeling you might need it!

  15.                   Istandje

    Degen  Carragher paletta Dossena

    Biscan Diao Lucas Gonzalez

                  Mellor   Babel

  16.                   Istandje 
    Degen  Carragher paletta Dossena 
    Biscan Diao Lucas Gonzalez 
                  Mellor   Babel

    COACH: Jami3 K@nwaR

    <div id="TixyyLink" style="border: medium none ; overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: left; text-decoration: none;">


  17. Babel as WingBack?? <-- stupid idea it may lead to Liverpool Worst thrashing ever!!!

  18. You've got the back-four wrong - If I was the manager I'd have Bjorn tore Kvarme in there somewhere.  I's also have Torben Piechnick, Sean Dundee and Erik Meijer in the team ;)

  19. LOL i named only a few that came to my mind- Meijer <-- 2 goals in 4 season, he should get a place there :D

  20. I hope you're not confusing Babbel with Babel....

  21. Good article, I'd have to go for Pepe over Bruce any day though, in terms of trophies and comedy value Brucie is untouchable but I'd feel a lot more confident with Pepe between the sticks.

    Central midfield feels a bit.... underpaced, although some quality players there's not enough dynamism in the middle for me.

    I'm also pretty sure you regularly lambast Rafa for playing Torres up front on his own.. and then suggest doing exactly the same - although in fairness being fed by Jari could be a magic combination. 

    Babbel is a great shout - quality for us, such a shame he fell ill.. off to think of some more options for the centre of the park.. and ideally a pacey right winger.

  22. You're probably right about Reina; it's probably the Nostalgia that leads to have Grobs in goal.  he's the keeper I grew up with, and as you say, for comedy value, you can't beat him :)

    I agree that centre-mid is a tad underpaced, but I'm not sure who else could go there given the options. Patrik Berger had great pace, so he would inject some dynamism. I'm sure Molby/Alonso's superb range of passing and positioning ability would compensate for lack of pace.

    Re Torres - I've never criticised rafa for playing him as a lone striker! For me, A Litmanent/Torres partnership is the stuff dreams are made of :)

  23. 1st Team
    GK Grobbelaar
    RB Heggem
    CB Hyypia
    CB Henchoz
    LB Bjornebye
    RM Garcia
    CM Alonso
    CM Molby
    LM Berger
    FWD Litmanen 
    FWD Torres

    2nd Team
    GK Reina
    RB Babbel
    CB Skrtel
    CB Agger
    LB Riise
    RM C Johnston
    CM Mascherano
    CM Hamann
    LM Smicer
    FWD Cisse 
    FWD Riedle

    I wanted Barnes in, as he was born in Jamaica...
    Anelka wasn't here long enough or he'd have been in.
    Rosenthal for league title, it was between him or Cisse, CL win and FA Cup + 2 broken legs swung it for Cisse.

  24. 4.3.3

  25.                      Reina

    Babbel     Aggar Hyppia    Riise

               Alonso          Whelhan


            Torres             Morientes