The top five players to represent Liverpool and West Ham in the PL era

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Glen Johnson and Javier Mascherano of Liverpool during a Premier League game against Bolton, Reebok Stadium, August 2009

During the Premier League era, the transfer route between Liverpool and West Ham United has been a particularly well-trodden path. 

Both clubs have had their fair share of star players and no fewer than 20 players have represented both the Reds and the Irons since the start of 1992-93.

We put the case forward for the best five footballers to pull on a Liverpool and West Ham shirt over the last 30 years.

5. David James

Only Gareth Barry, Ryan Giggs, Frank Lampard and James Milner can eclipse James for the most all-time Premier League appearances. However, arriving at Anfield from Watford at just 21, the England international had much to prove between the sticks.

He was a custodian for the Reds who split opinion; regularly an eye-catching save would be followed by a calamitous error. The reason he was labelled – perhaps unfairly – as “calamity James” in some quarters.

But James stayed for seven seasons at Anfield before a swift stay at Aston Villa was followed by a transfer to the Hammers. He made over 100 appearances but moved to Man City when the club were relegated from the top-tier.

 

4. Glen Johnson

The England international was a member of the West Ham youth academy which also produced stars like Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick. But the full-back only played 15 first-team matches for the Irons.

It may have been more but West Ham’s relegation in 2003 to the Championship saw the club cash in on the then-talented youngster.

After spells with Chelsea and Portsmouth, Johnson joined the Reds in 2009 – becoming the club’s most expensive defender at the time. He looked on course to justify his £17.5million price tag early on at Anfield, as he recorded two goals and three assists in his opening five matches.

But before his switch to Stoke City in 2015, he was often part of Liverpool teams that came close to silverware without ultimately crossing the finish line – notably the Luis Suarez inspired side that narrowly missed out on the 2013-14 title.

3. Craig Bellamy

Bellamy made 79 appearances for the Reds, netting 18 goals over two spells at the club. He first arrived under Rafa Benitez in 2006 from Blackburn Rovers, before he returned to Anfield five years later with Sir Kenny Dalglish at the helm.

In his second spell at Liverpool.– culminating in a League Cup final win over his boyhood club Cardiff City – the forward contributed nine goals. A figure which is by no means breathtaking, but his versatility to operate in a number of attacking positions was much-needed.

Bellamy also played for the Irons for one-and-a-half seasons before he moved to Man City in 2009 – one of seven clubs the Welsh striker represented in the Premier League.

2. Yossi Benayoun

The retired Israeli was snapped up by West Ham in 2005 from Spanish outfit Racing Santander. Contributing five goals and seven assists in his debut campaign in the Premier League, the reported £2.5million fee paid to secure his services proved to be a great piece of business.

But Benitez set his sights on bringing the playmaker to Anfield. An impressive Benayoun display in the 2006 FA Cup final against the Spaniard’s side sparked his interest, and the Dimona-born midfielder eventually joined the Merseyside club in 2007.

The man largely regarded as Israel’s greatest football export featured 47 times in his maiden season, quickly becoming a cult hero of the Kop.

“I need a player like [Yossi] with a quality pass, always looking for the striker. I always say to him that if I was manager, he’d always play.” Fernando Torres said about Benayoun when at Liverpool.

Despite enjoying a healthy chunk of playing time early on at the Reds, one of the most unheralded members of the Benitez era eventually departed Liverpool in 2010.

Moves to Chelsea, Arsenal and a West Ham return followed as Benayoun felt discouraged by his Spanish boss at Liverpool.

“Everyone asks me why I left Liverpool. There is only one reason – Rafa Benitez. If I played well, I never felt he gave me credit,” Benayoun said.

1. Javier Mascherano

Mascherano was part of an Argentinian duo that signed for the Hammers in 2006 from Brazilian club Corinthians – the other being a little-known forward: Carlos Tevez.

Alan Pardew hailed the arrivals as “massive coups” as the east London side capitalised on their strong bargaining position after reaching the FA Cup final just months prior.

Tevez’s contributions helped the Irons stave off relegation that season, but his compatriot’s impact was far less fruitful. Mascherano – after making just five first-team appearances – was loaned to Liverpool in January 2007.

“It was frustrating to join after a World Cup and have the manager ask what position I played,” Mascherano said in 2015.

Pardew clearly wasn’t a fan. But the South American certainly made an instant impression under Rafael Benitez’s stewardship, and the Reds made the tenacious midfielder a permanent acquisition one year after his initial temporary arrival.

Mascherano was part of one of the all-time great Liverpool midfield trios alongside Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard before he caught the attention of Barcelona in 2010.

Pep Guardiola converted him to a centre-back in his all-conquering Barcelona side. Going on to win 19 trophies in eight seasons in Spain, I think even Pardew would agree on reflection – he was wrong about the Argentina international.

Argentina's Javier Mascherano reacting during Netherlands v Argentina, in Arena de Sao Paulo Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on July 9, 2014.

READ: An ode to Mascherano – so devoted he tore his ars*hole for Argentina


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