Ranking every Liverpool player by importance to Reds' title efforts

For the first time in 30 years, Liverpool are English football champions. Who were the key figures in their historic triumph? We examine that below, with the caveat that players must have appeared in at least one Premier League match this season to be in contention.

24. Neco Williams

Williams had a lively Premier League debut against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. The Welsh right-back often moved inside to test his passing through the middle, such as when he picked out Mohamed Salah with a forensic through-ball, and he fired one shot that required a block from Mamadou Sakho and another that forced Wayne Hennessey into a save. Williams is already good enough to deputize for Trent Alexander-Arnold.

23. Takumi Minamino

Minamino’s acceleration, work rate, and nimble feet froze Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Jordan Henderson at Anfield last October. So, a little over two months later, Liverpool brokered a bargain £7.25-million deal to sign the Japanese playmaker from Red Bull Salzburg. The 25-year-old hasn’t had many opportunities to impress since he arrived in January, but time is on his side.

22. Curtis Jones

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Jones has shown flashes of his great promise in the other domestic competitions, such as when he scored to help Liverpool’s reserves dump Everton from the FA Cup. He almost netted a left-footed volley after he emerged from the bench to make his league debut at Bournemouth in December.

21. Harvey Elliott

Elliott has only mustered seven Premier League minutes this season, but the hype is justified. Although he only turned 17 in April, he hasn’t looked out of place when running at established professionals in the other English competitions. His regular outings away from Premier League and Champions League duty have reduced the workload for Liverpool’s celebrated attacking triumvirate.

20. Xherdan Shaqiri

For a brief time, Shaqiri’s surprise arrival from Stoke City was dubbed a masterstroke. His two-goal cameo against Manchester United in December 2018 earned a 3-1 win, which strengthened Liverpool’s case as Premier League title challengers. But while the Reds romped to the title this season, Shaqiri has just one Premier League goal to his name. He seems destined for the exit.

19. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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Oxlade-Chamberlain’s spot in the Reds’ lineup for the UEFA Super Cup clash with Chelsea last August was his first start in 477 days after a serious knee injury, so he’s done well to make 34 more appearances across all competitions since then. Klopp will hope to lean on the ebullient Ox’s versatility and work rate even more next season.

18. Naby Keita

This was supposed to be the season when we saw the real Keita, the explosive midfielder who set the Bundesliga alight with RB Leipzig. And we did get that … for one match. He appeared to kick-start his Liverpool career when he scored a well-worked goal and teed up Salah against Bournemouth in December, but he’s started just four league matches since.

17. Dejan Lovren

Lovren hasn’t done as badly as you might think. On average, he’s not dribbled past as frequently as Joel Matip is, and he wins more aerial duels per 90 minutes than Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. But he’s still Lovren: a defender constantly on the cusp of a brain fart and often targeted by opponents. He was schooled by Troy Deeney in Liverpool’s 3-0 loss at Watford.

16. Joel Matip

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It’s been a frustrating season for Matip after he cemented himself as Van Dijk’s first-choice central defensive partner last term. He’s missed 13 league league matches due to injury and, when fit, it’s been difficult for him to supplant Gomez in the back-four. At 28, Matip should have more chances to become a regular starter once again.

15. Divock Origi

Origi has been subbed on in 18 of Liverpool’s 31 league matches; only Everton’s Moise Kean and Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood have been called off the bench more than the Belgian. But those cameos have yielded just one fortuitous assist when a wildly mishit shot skidded toward Salah, who duly steered a delightful backheel past Watford’s Ben Foster. Origi hasn’t done much in the Premier League lately, but at least his introductions give Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, or Salah a rest.

14. Adam Lallana

Lallana recently agreed to extend his terms until the end of the prolonged season, effectively confirming he’s set to leave the club after six campaigns on Merseyside. Klopp has shown trust in the 32-year-old by calling him off the bench during big matches, and Lallana’s one goal and one assist have earned the Reds four points, which isn’t a bad return at all.

13. Adrian

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Adrian displayed impressive elasticity during his six seasons at West Ham United, but he was a peculiar choice as backup for Alisson due to his questionable footwork. Nevertheless, the summer recruit followed his penalty shootout heroics in the UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea by donning the gloves for Liverpool’s opening eight Premier League matches.

12. James Milner

Milner continues to be a dutiful member of Klopp’s ranks, cropping up on either side of the back-four and in all three midfield positions over the course of the season. The human Swiss Army knife has made 19 league appearances, most of which were off the bench, and would beat most youth-team players in a beep test at the age of 34. Would he be tempted by a swansong at Leeds United if his hometown club was promoted?

11. Fabinho

Any nerves before last November’s showdown with Manchester City were quickly dispelled when a weak clearance rolled to Fabinho in the sixth minute. The Brazilian nudged it forward before driving a ferocious hit beyond Claudio Bravo from 25 yards. However, Fabinho was barely missed during his two months out with ankle ligament damage and struggled for form after his return. He’s not a crucial part of Klopp’s XI yet.

10. Joe Gomez

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Gomez is a useful pawn given his ability to play at center-back and right-back, and he’s gradually establishing himself in the former position alongside Van Dijk. The 23-year-old is an imposing figure at 6-foot-2, but it was his ease in possession that encouraged Liverpool to sign him from Charlton Athletic in 2015. He completes more passes per 90 minutes than any other first-team regular.

9. Georginio Wijnaldum

Wijnaldum is a magnificent two-way midfielder. His strength, underrated turn of pace, and agility help him wrest back possession and shake off opponents, while his tactical awareness allows him to dictate and reset attacks from inside Liverpool’s half. The Dutchman has also developed a reputation for scoring important goals, and his aerial ability is an extra headache for defenders on set-pieces.

8. Alisson

Few can argue against Alisson being the greatest goalkeeper on the planet. His combination of cool footwork, pinpoint distribution, and cat-like reflexes have propelled him to the very top since he succeeded Wojciech Szczesny as Roma’s No. 1 in 2017. Adrian managed two clean sheets in the 11 league matches that Alisson missed through injury, but the Brazilian soon showed his deputy how it was done with seven consecutive clean sheets in December and January.

7. Roberto Firmino

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Firmino can’t shake criticism for not scoring enough for Liverpool, and this season is no different while he still awaits his first league goal at Anfield in 2019-20. But his selflessness and knack for drawing the best qualities from his teammates are well-documented. There have been reports that Klopp could freshen up his squad by offloading Firmino, but the Brazilian would be a difficult player to replace.

6. Andrew Robertson

Robertson’s importance was evident when Liverpool ended their COVID-19 hiatus at Everton. Milner and Gomez took turns in his position but, despite the obvious strengths of that duo, Klopp’s formation lacked width and neither player could get anywhere near Robertson’s mileage. The Scot’s crowning moment actually came in the Champions League at Anfield, when he started and finished a stunning team move against Red Bull Salzburg.

5. Jordan Henderson

Spectator-less Premier League matches have allowed supporters to listen in to on-pitch conversations, but you don’t need to cup your ear when Henderson’s barking out orders. The midfielder is Liverpool’s on-field general, and his tireless work rate, distribution, positional sense, and tackling are crucial to the team’s game plan. His rise from much-maligned remnant of Sir Kenny Dalglish’s disappointing second spell in charge to inspirational captain has been meteoric.

4. Mohamed Salah

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Salah doesn’t just change direction, he swerves and sways. One of the most naturally gifted footballers in Europe is in sensational form for Liverpool once again, scoring 17 league goals and only playing fewer key passes than Alexander-Arnold. His strength is underappreciated – it’s helped him refine his holdup play – and his frightening dribbling ability can occupy two or three defenders at once.

3. Virgil van Dijk

What else can be said about Liverpool’s calm leader at the back? Van Dijk was the final piece of the puzzle, the player whose assurance permeated through Liverpool’s Melwood training base and transformed the team from an also-ran to a domestic and continental champion. Name a better central defender in world football.

2. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Liverpool’s 4-0 victory at Leicester City on Boxing Day was a masterclass. They could’ve doubled that total in the East Midlands but, when Alexander-Arnold arrowed an effort into the bottom corner and performed a folded-arm celebration in front of the traveling support, it was enough. Liverpool were going to win the league, and their most creative and exciting player was a right-back born a stone’s throw from the club’s training ground.

1. Sadio Mane

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One of the league’s most likable players could also be its best. From the day he started kicking stones around his secluded Senegalese village of Bambouli to this season, Mane has improved at a remarkable rate and shows no signs of slowing his ascent to become one of the globe’s greatest. He’s an intelligent mover and accomplished creator, has a wide variety to his finishing and, of course, he’s obscenely quick. He’s scored 15 times and assisted on seven occasions.

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