Liverpool

History of Liverpool’s Number 9s

Liverpool has produced some of the best strikers in world football. It was not just goal-scoring exploits these players were famous for but there were some whose game transcended the typical goal-scoring a No. 9 is known for.

Liverpool has been blessed to have so many great No. 9 through the decades. The weight of the jersey is too high but some of the greats took that as a challenge and made that No. 9 jersey their own.

Let’s take a look at some of the deadliest Liverpool No. 9’s in their history.

1.    Ian Rush – 346 Goals

How about we start with the greatest of them all? The best striker to ever put on a Liverpool jersey. Ian Rush is the all-time leading goalscorer in Liverpool’s history with 346 goals in all competitions. Ruhs’s goalscoring was off the charts and his knack for scoring goals in important games was uncanny.

Ian Rush cost Liverpool £300,000, which was a record fee for a teenager at the time. Bob Paisley regarded him highly and brought him in from Chester City. Rush scored his first Liverpool goal in the European Cup against Oulun Palloseura.

In his first full season, Ian Rush won the PFA Young Player of the Year award as Liverpool ran away with the title. Rush scored 30 goals in 49 appearances for the club.

Ian Rush had a special liking for Liverpool’s arch-rivals Everton. The Merseyside neighbours hated Rush. In total, Ian Rush scored 25 goals in all competitions against Everton, the most by a player in Merseyside derby history. He scored winning goals in FA Cup final and semi-finals, and once even scored 4 goals in a match against Everton.

Ian Rush had two spells with Liverpool, in 1987 he decided to join Juventus, after a disappointing one-year spell, Rush was back at Liverpool. He continued his goal-scoring exploits despite competition from John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley.

Ian Rush Honours at Liverpool

Ian Rush’s Liverpool career was trophy-laden as he won 5 League Titles, 3 FA Cups, 5 League Cups, and 2 European Cups. Ian Rush’s record of 346 goals will be very tough to break, no one has even come close to breaking that record. That is the height of greatness of the Welshman.

Appearances660
Goals346
Trophies18

 

2.    Roberto “Bobby” Firmino – 111 Goals

Bobby changed the whole concept of No. 9 at the club. With Firmino it was never about goal-scoring but it was the larger picture. He did finish his Liverpool career with an impressive tally of 111 goals, but he also provided 72 assists in his time at Liverpool.

According to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp – Roberto Firmino is not part of the system but he is the system. That’s how influential Firmino was in Liverpool’s recent success.

Roberto Firmino was bought for £29m from TSG Hoffenheim by then-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Firmino struggled to adapt to Rodgers’ system and he was used in multiple positions without any success. Jurgen Klopp came in and changed the whole system to suit Firmino and his qualities.

Firmino started his Liverpool career with the No. 11 shirt, he switched his shirt to No. 9 from the 2017/18 season onwards. Klopp deployed Bobby as a false No. 9 and he ran with that role. Firmino’s pressing set the tone for the rest of the team. He was as selfless a striker as you can come across. He sacrificed his goals to help the team.

Despite being more of a provider, Roberto Firmino scored some amazing goals for Liverpool. He once sat the whole Arsenal defence down with a mazy dribble before slotting the ball in the goal. Firmino scored the only goal of the game against Flamengo as Liverpool won the 2019/20 Club World Cup.

Firmino Honours at Liverpool

Roberto Firmino is one of the main reasons Liverpool won so many trophies in recent years. Without his hard work and dedication none of that would have been possible. Firmino ended up winning 1 League Title, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, 1 European Cup, 1 Club World Cup, and 1 European Super Cup.

Appearances256
Goals111
Trophies6

 

3.    Robbie Fowler – 183 Goals

You have to be something special if you are known as “God” by your club’s supporters. That is what Fowler was called by Liverpool fans. That is the level the “Toxteth Terror” had reached.

Robbie Fowler is perhaps the best finisher on this list. He had every type of finish in his locker. He could score a tap-in, header, volley, half-volley, acrobatic, or a wrong-foot finish.

Robbie Fowler was a handful both on and off the field. Fowler scored an incredible 120 league goals in just 236 games for Liverpool. He averaged more than 0.50 goals per game. In his initial years, Fowler competed with the great Ian Rush for the forward position and he eventually pipped Rush to become Liverpool’s star No. 9.

Fowler’s most memorable season came in the 2000/01 season when Liverpool lifted the treble. Fowler by then was playing second fiddle to Michael Owen and Emile Heskey.

Despite that, Fowler managed important contributions. Fowler scored in the League Cup final against Birmingham City to help Liverpool win the League Cup, then lifted the FA Cup final, and then scored again in the Europa League final as Liverpool sensationally beat Deportivo Alaves 5-4 and lifted the trophy.

Robbie Fowler’s off-field antics didn’t help his cause. He was dubbed Spice-boys by the media with his frequent off-field controversies. He was also fined by Liverpool for celebrating a goal controversially against Everton as he used the white line of the penalty area to stimulate cocaine use, this was in response to Everton fans accusing him of drug abuse.

Fowler eventually left Liverpool in 2001/02 after falling out with then-Liverpool manager Gerard Houlier. But 5 years later he made a fairytale comeback after Rafael Benitez brought Fowler home. He provided the experience for a relatively young side.

Bonus video – I was at the game when Fowler returned – forgive the awful picture quality (this was taken on a cheap digital camera), but the noise is unreal:

Robbie Fowler LFC Honours

Fowler won 1 UEFA Cup, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups, and 1 European Super Cup with Liverpool on top of scoring tons of goals for his boyhood club. He remains the best finisher Anfield has ever seen to date.

Appearances369
Goals183
Trophies5

 

4.    Fernando Torres – 81 Goals

 

What could have been? Fernando Torres was the only superstar signing in Rafael Benitez’s era. Liverpool was not known to spend big in that era so Torres coming in for 20m was a BIG deal for the fans. Boy did Torres go straight into the hearts of the Anfield faithful.

Fernando Torres had a dream start to his Anfield career as he scored on his first appearance at Anfield against Chelsea. He continued his goalscoring form throughout the season as he amassed 24 goals in his first season.

Torres became the most prolific foreign player in his debut season, a title that was held by Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

Liverpool reached the Champions League semis in Torres’s first season and made huge strides in the league as well. Torres made the PFA Team of the Year in his first season. Torres’ impact was so great in just a season and a half that he came third in the FIFA World Player of the Year Awards.

He was also named in the Times List of “50 Greatest Liverpool Players Ever”, he was placed in the 50th position.

Fernando Torres was named in the PFA team of the year for the second successive year as Liverpool just failed to win the Premier League title. Torres, personally, was on fire for Liverpool. Injuries eventually took their toll as he had a very stop-start third season. Torres still finished with 22 goals in 32 appearances for the club.

After Rafael Benitez’s exit as Liverpool boss, Torres’ time was up as well with Liverpool suffering under Gillett and Hicks’ ownership. Fernando Torres was seen as a villain when he handed in a transfer request and moved to rival Chelsea but all has been forgotten now.

Torres made a couple of appearances for the Liverpool Legends side and he got serenaded with his iconic “Fernando Torres Liverpool No. 9” song.

Appearances142
Goals81
Trophies –

 

5.    Darwin Nunez – Work-In-Progress – 15 Goals and Counting

Darwin Nunez has just gotten his Liverpool career started. There is massive potential in the 24-year-old Uruguayan. Nunez has the pace, strength, and a good eye for goal. Coming from a different league with a different language, Nunez needed a season to settle into the side.

Darwin showed his goal scoring instinct in his first official game for Liverpool against Manchester City in the Community Shield as he scored one of the goals and Liverpool went on to beat the eventual treble winner Manchester City 3-1.

Nunez still needed time to settle despite the glorious start but events elsewhere forced Jurgen Klopp to throw Nunez in the deep end straight away. Liverpool was riddled with injuries which meant Nunez was starting every game for Liverpool, that was not a bad thing.

The problem Liverpool and Nunez had was that they could not settle on one formation as Klopp kept changing systems and that meant Nunez was struggling to develop chemistry with other players because players kept changing around Nunez. Still, Nunez managed to score a respectable 15 goals in the season

Darwin Nunez looks a lot more settled and he looks ready to go by the looks of the pre-season but he will require patience to hit the ground running and also some help from his fellow attackers because Nunez has the potential to become one of the very best No. 9 in Liverpool’s history.

 

Appearances42
Goals15
Trophies1

 

The Not-So-Great Liverpool No. 9s

For every Ian Rush, there has to be an El-Hadji Diouf, while Liverpool has been blessed with more hits than duds, there are still some No. 9s in Liverpool’s history despite coming in with great reputations.

Let’s start our dud list with…

1.     El-Hadji Diouf – 3 Goals

One of the worst players in Liverpool’s history, arguably the worst. What a waste of space and talent Diouf turned out to be. Diouf was brought in as someone who would help Liverpool to win the title.

Seems like a joke now, but that wasn’t the case then. Diouf was helping Senegal beat mighty France in the World Cup of 2002 when news broke that El Hadji Diouf was on his way to Liverpool for 10m.

It was a coup at the time considering he was one of the best players in the 2002 World Cup. What followed at Liverpool was a steep downhill descent in both his and ultimately Gerard Houlier’s careers.

Diouf started the season well enough, he scored two goals against Southampton in his first game and then helped Liverpool beat Manchester United in the League Cup final. That was as good as it got for Diouf at Liverpool.

Diouf scored just one more goal for Liverpool that season. He then infamously spat at a Celtic fan in a UEFA Cup game at Parkhead. He was suspended for two games as well as serving a hefty fine to Liverpool. This was just the start of the downward spiral.

Diouf went the entire 2003/04 without scoring a single goal for Liverpool, In fact, he racked up 13 yellow cards and 1 red card that season. It was so incredible that even Jamie Carragher later said this in an interview ”He has one of the worst strike rates of any forward in Liverpool history. He’s the only No. 9 ever to go through a whole season without scoring, in fact, he’s probably the only No. 9 of any club to do that”.

El Hadji Diouf is still despised at Liverpool to date. Fans would have forgotten about him eventually but Diouf constantly berated then-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard throughout his career. He goes down as the worst signing in modern Liverpool history.

2.     Christian Benteke – 10 Goals

A wrong player at the wrong time. Christian Benteke’s arrival was a desperate attempt by Brendan Rodgers to get things right. Rodgers was failing miserably after almost doing the impossible and winning Liverpool the league. After that, Brendan Rodgers’ lack of tactical nous kept getting exposed.

Benteke was one of the most in-form strikers in the Premier League when Rodgers decided to take a punt on him. The problem for Benteke was that Rodgers only lasted half a season and in came Jurgen Klopp.

Klopp’s style of play didn’t suit Benteke as he was more of a traditional back-to-the-goal type player and Jurgen wanted a more fluid attacker with emphasis on pressing teams.

Benteke spent most of his time on the bench under Jurgen Klopp and he spent only one season at the club. He knew he wouldn’t be starting most of the games so he departed the club. He is not a dud per se but his time ultimately was underwhelming.

Still, Benteke gave us that wonderful scissor-kick goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford. He will always be remembered for that outrageous goal.

3.     Rickie Lambert – 2 League Goals

How do you not replace Luis Suarez featuring for Liverpool? Oh boy. Liverpool sold one of the deadliest and definitely one of the best players in their Premier League history Luis Suarez to Barcelona in 2014 summer. They replaced Suarez with Rickie Lambert, a boyhood Liverpool fan.

At least Lambert got to live out his dream and it was a feel-good transfer for everyone involved. That was as good as it got for Lambert.

Lambert managed just 2 league goals for Liverpool. Suarez had scored 30+ goals in the league the season before. Suarez was 27 when he left Liverpool, Lambert came in as a 32-year-old from Southampton.

We are not being mean but we are trying to understand the reason behind Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers thinking as to how did the club end up making this decision.

Even Balotelli was brought in as an extra attacker but he was not handed the famed No. 9 jersey at Liverpool, it was given to Lambert. Rickie to his credit had the heart and will to become at least a partial success at Liverpool but unfortunately, his qualities, and especially his age were nowhere close enough for him to even be considered decent let alone a success. In the end, he will only be remembered for the feel-good transfer story where a boyhood Liverpool fan got to live his dream.

4.     Iago Aspas – 1 Goal

Wow. Iago Aspas was not a bad player, before and after leaving Liverpool he has proven what a quality little striker he is. This was just not a good match.

A manager who didn’t know how to integrate him into the playing squad, a lethal and settled forward line meant he was never going to get a look-in in his first season, and then there was the language barrier.

Aspas never connected with the squad and that became evident in that cursed Liverpool game against Chelsea. The Gerrad slip game. With Liverpool chasing the game and needing to at least get a draw from the game, Aspas stood over a corner kick late in the game, with no communication whatsoever with his teammates he passed the ball straight to a Chelsea player who went on the other end and finished the game off.

That corner summed up Aspas’ Liverpool career. He was gone the following summer. Short and not-so-sweet.

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