Where are they now? The final Liverpool XI of the Rafa Benitez era
He brought more success to Anfield than most. Guiding the Reds to Champions League and FA Cup glory earned Rafa Benitez his place in Liverpool history and no matter his subsequent career choices, that is where he will stay.
Appointed in the summer of 2004 as Gerard Houllier’s replacement, success was instant and stunning for Benitez. His first season ended in that Istanbul comeback and his second culminated in that FA Cup triumph.
Another Champions League final followed in 2007 but three years later it all came to an end for the Spaniard, sacked by the club in the summer of 2010 after a disappointing 0-0 draw with Hull City rounded off his final campaign. But where are the players who started that match now?
GK: Pepe Reina
Reina left Liverpool with 396 appearances to name and the fourth-most Premier League caps of any Spaniard.
Nearly 40, Reina is not officially retired but his courting of far-right political parties and appearance as a giant penguin on the Spanish version of The Masked Singer point towards somebody winding down.
Still, he’s made 15 Serie A appearances for Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio – which is more than we would’ve expected at this point in his career.
RB: Daniel Agger
The tattooed titan became a Liverpool icon during his eight years with the club.
As well as helping to run a sewage company alongside his brother, uncle and best friend, Agger has also delved into the world of football management after retirement, taking over at HB Koge in the Danish second tier in March 2021.
In August he was even registered as a player, hinting at a possible return to the pitch, which unfortunately hasn’t come to fruition. Agger’s Koge currently sit seventh in the 12-team Danish ‘First Division’.
CB: Jamie Carragher
Carragher has followed his 17-year spell at Liverpool by arguing with Gary Neville every Monday night. And he’s absolutely brilliant at it, to be fair.
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) June 25, 2020
CB: Sotiris Kyrgiakos
Kyrgiakos’s first season on the red half of Merseyside coincided with Rafa’s last.
The Greek defender’s time can be summed up by wild inconsistency. One colossal defensive effort would be followed by a hideous tackle – see the six-month injury inflicted on Marouane Fellaini in February 2010.
He retired in 2014 after his final spell with Sydney Olympic and keeps a low profile these days although his Instagram shows a bloke soaking up his retirement in Greece and just having a great time. More power to him.
LB: Javier Mascherano
A perfect enforcer in Liverpool’s midfield for three years, Mascherano became a huge fan favourite for his no-nonsense on-field persona – not least for his stunning outburst at Old Trafford in 2008 when he was sent off for protesting a Peter Crouch yellow card.
He retired in 2020. In January, Mascherano took over as coach of Argentina’s Under-20s, and has backed plans for a biannual World Cup. Be quiet, Javier.
CM: Lucas Leiva
They don’t get more reliable than Leiva, and the midfielder is still playing for Lazio in Serie A. He arrived at Liverpool as a 20-year-old from Gremio in 2007 and left 10 years later as an unlikely club hero.
CM: Alberto Aquilani
Nowadays, you can’t scroll through Twitter without seeing a club being torn apart for making a terrible signing. Aquilani was at the forefront of the art form after his £17million move to Anfield from Roma in 2009.
He spent just one season in Liverpool’s first team before returning to Italy. The midfielder announced his retirement from the game in 2019 and nowadays he’s the coach of Fiorentina’s under-19 squad, even winning the Coppa Italia Primavera in the summer of 2020.
AM: Steven Gerrard
A legend on the pitch and perhaps on his way to the same status off it. In just his second season as manager of Rangers, Gerrard won the SPL title, blocking Celtic from getting their 10th in a row.
He’s now getting experience as a Premier League manager at Aston Villa. Will we see him in the Anfield dugout when Klopp leaves?
RW: Ryan Babel
A man who provided phenomenal entertainment both on and off the pitch. Babel scored excellent goals and caused chaos on social media, most famously photoshopping Howard Webb into a Manchester United kit and claiming a £10,000 fine in the process.
The forward is still playing at the ripe old age of 35, Galatasaray his current benefactors.
LW: Nabil El Zhar
Remember El Zhar? No? Nor us, in all honesty.
But apparently, he spent five years at Anfield between 2006 and 2011 but appeared just 21 times in the Premier League. Earlier this year the forward joined Qatari outfit Muaither SC.
ST: Dirk Kuyt
After retiring in 2017, Kuyt has since offered to be Steven Gerrard’s assistant manager at Anfield. What a fitting role that would be for a man so beloved at Anfield.
Last year he quite as Feyenoord’s academy coach to “continue his path elsewhere” but we’re yet to see what that next step will be.