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Africans miss out in Liverpool’s all-time best Xl

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Bruce Grobblaar

Africans miss out in Liverpool’s all-time best Xl. Former Zimbabwe international goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, Senegalese superstar forward, Sadio Mane, and his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Salah, had been included, among scores of Liverpool legends, in a poll for the club’s All-Time Best XI.

One won six league titles, and a European Cup, the other two have just powered the Reds to become champions of England, Europe and the World. But, none of the three African superstars, have made it into the Liverpool All-Time Best XI side. The worldwide poll was conducted by BBC Sport.

It attracted more than 125 000 participants who had to choose the stars from a number of some of the club’s finest players in the team’s glory-laden history. The poll was part of the celebrations to mark the special occasion when Liverpool would finally hoist their first English Premiership trophy in 30 years.

Captain Jordan Henderson became the first Liverpool skipper to lift the Premiership trophy, in three decades, as the triumphant Reds partied before family members at their Anfield fortress on Wednesday night.

The spectacular presentation ceremony, complete with fireworks, was held at the Kop, the famous stand at Anfield, which represents a bastion of loyalty to the Liverpool cause, among the club’s fans. This was a special arrangement made by the club’s leaders to thank the fans, who were not allowed to attend the occasion, for sticking with the team during the lengthy search for the league title.

Guinea international midfielder Naby Keita opened the scoring for the hosts on Wednesday, with an unstoppable bullet which crashed into the top corner, to set the Reds on the road to a 5-3 win over Chelsea.

That goal, and the grand contributions which Mane and Salah have made in the transformation of Liverpool into the best football club in the world, once again highlighted the value which African stars have provided to this great sporting institution over the years.

A number of African players have played for the Reds since South Africa’s Berry Nieuwenhuys blazed the trail by making 257 appearances for Liverpool between 1933 and 1947.

A poll by Goal.com said Grobbelaar remained the greatest African to play for Liverpool.  “Zimbabwean ‘keeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, stands head and shoulders above the other players on this list,’’ the authoritative website said.

“He may not have had the pure, natural ability of other African stoppers, such as Joseph-Antoine Bell or Thomas N’Kono, but he is rightly regarded as one of the continent’s finest in his position.

“Grobbelaar was part of one of Liverpool’s greatest-ever teams and was a key figure in one of their most dominant eras. During his time on Merseyside, Grobbelaar claimed six league championships and three domestic cups.

“The highlight, however, was that European Cup Final in 1984, where the charismatic No 1 almost single-handedly helped the Reds to add another star above the Shankly Gates.

“The goalkeeper’s expert penalty saves, complete with bandy legs, have gone down in club folklore. “The Durban-born star made 628 appearances for the club over 13 years. He currently stands ninth in the list of appearances for the club, and holds the record for non-English or Welsh players.’’

However, in the recent BBC poll, whose results were released concurrently with the Liverpool celebrations on Wednesday night, Grobbelaar did not make the Liverpool All-Star XI side.

Instead, the goalkeeping role went to Ray Clemence, the legendary ‘keeper Grobbelaar replaced, who won five league titles in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1980. Crucially, Clemence won three European Cups in 1977, 1978 and 1981, two Uefa Cups in 1973 and 1976, one League Cup in 1981 and one League Cup in 1981.

Grobbelaar can probably argue he could have won as many European Cup titles had Liverpool, and other English clubs, not been banned from European competitions for five years in 1985.

The ban followed the death of 39 Italian fans, mostly Juventus supporters, during rioting as Liverpool took on Juventus in the 1985 European Cup final at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium.

The BBC Sports team conceded that the poll was never going to produce a perfect All-Star XI. “When a team has won 19 top-flight titles and six European Cups, picking an all-time XI is no easy task,’’ the BBC Sport said.

“We asked you to do just that after Liverpool ended their 30-year wait to be champions of England — and more than 125 000 of you submitted your teams.

“It is quite a starting XI, but just as interesting is who missed out, with some legendary figures not making the cut. Mohamed Salah was picked in 31% of starting XIs but he was just pipped by Luis Suarez (32%) as the third most popular striker.

“So, the Egyptian, the catalyst for so much of Liverpool’s recent success — has to make do with a place on the bench. Suarez and (Kenny) Dalglish are joined up front by Ian Rush, who scored 346 goals in 660 games and made 57% of your teams.

“Xabi Alonso (37%) was actually the 10th most-selected player overall but there is no place for him in the most popular 4-3-3 formation, with (Steve) Gerrard, Graeme Souness (63%) and John Barnes (53%) all picked more in midfield.

“Jamie Carragher spent his entire career at Anfield but he does not make the cut despite being included by 25% of you. Van Dijk and Alan Hansen (70%) are the preferred centre-back pairing. “In goal, Ray Clemence (44%) edged out Alisson (33%).

“Other notable absentees from this XI include Champions League and Premier League-winning captain Jordan Henderson (11%), along with a host of brilliant attackers, including Kevin Keegan (19%), Robbie Fowler (17%), Steve McManaman and Sadio Mane (both 14%) and Fernando Torres, Peter Beardsley and Michael Owen (all 11%).’’

Suarez, who only won a League Cup at Liverpool, was selected ahead of both Mane and Salah who have led the Reds to become England, European and world champions. Three players stood out during the selection process — Dalglish, Van Dijk and Steven Gerrard.

Despite not winning a league title, Gerrard dominated the poll and featured in 92 percent of the teams selected.

“As a player, Sir Kenny Dalglish inspired the Reds to six league titles and three European Cups, scoring 172 goals in 515 games. But that remarkable record is only enough to make the Scot the third most-selected player, included in 73% of teams,’’ the BBC said.

“In second place came defender Virgil van Dijk, one of the stars of this season’s success under Jurgen Klopp and last year’s Champions League win. He was included in 75% of teams.

“But the most-selected player overall?

“Despite being unable to lift the Premier League trophy, an Anfield career taking in 710 appearances and 186 goals — along with countless iconic moments — ensured Steven Gerrard claimed that honour. He was included in 92% of teams.’’

Source – The Herald

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