Liverpool signed the world’s finest young player in a club-record transfer.

Liverpool signed the world’s finest young player in a club-record transfer.

Liverpool has produced several great Premier League players from its academy.

After breaking through in the 1990s, Dominic Matteo, David Thompson, Steven McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, and Steven Gerrard all played for the Reds.

After graduating from the Academy, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones, and Caoimhin Kelleher are key parts of Jurgen Klopp’s first team, while Harvey Elliot and Stefan Bajcetic joined the young ranks in their mid-teens.

The Academy conveyor belt is still moving, with Ben Doak, Bobby Clark, Conor Bradley, and Jarell Quansah all hoping to make the first team.
The Reds’ academy wasn’t always a ‘rich mine’ It was lamented in the noughties that Gerrard was the last graduate to become a first-team regular.

Liverpool’s failure to find the next Gerrard, Owen, or Carragher was surprising given the nineties’ success and Manchester United’s class of ’92. It took many managerial changes under Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers before Klopp put the Reds back on track.

Despite that, Liverpool had some highly-rated kids who failed to perform throughout their dry stretch. FourFourTwo’s 2001 ranking of the world’s 100 best footballers proves this.

All six Reds players were in the top 40, and two were in the top 10. Three future Liverpool players made the top five, while one future academy signing made it 10. However, only one of those can claim to have been a generational superstar.

Many of the greatest 21st-century players are included. But when 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka, who won the World Cup and Champions League, finished 95th, you know where we’re going.

Congratulations, Kaka! You outranked Alexander Hleb, David Prutton, Erdal Kilicaslan, Daniyel Cimen, and Benjamin Auer in 2001! Don’t worry—we forgot that trio too. Shaun Maloney and Kieran Richardson ranked 100-91 ahead of the renowned Brazilian.

Our first Liverpool player arrives in the 1980s. Ramon Calliste. He won the FA Youth Cup with Manchester United in 2003, but he joined Liverpool in 2005 and was the reserves’ top striker in 2005/06.

The Welshman joined Scunthorpe United after one season on the recommendation of national team manager John Toshack, but he badly dislocated his ankle in his first pre-season. That accident prevented him from reaching his early potential and caused him to retire.

You may see Dimitar Berbatov at 82nd, Michael Essien at 78th, and Cherno Samba at 71st!

Liverpool tried to recruit the Millwall striker for £1.5m, but the Lions rejected their offer. Samba never lived up to his promise when the Anfield transfer collapsed, setting him on a downward spiral.

After joining Cadiz, Samba played for Malaga B, Plymouth Argyle, Wrexham, Haka, Panetolikos, and FK Tonsberg before retiring at 29 in July 2015 due to injuries.

Next, Juventus’ Matteo Brighi is 70th. Another video game legend, he had the highest FIFA 2003 rating of 97. Only Ronaldo (Brazilian, not Cristiano) has ever outrated EA in the game. Despite staring at the World Cup and winning the Ballon d’Or, not in 2002/03.

From a virtual perspective, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo (Cristiano, not Brazilian) are ‘worse’ than Brighi. As injuries prevented him from reaching his potential, Juventus sold the midfielder to Parma that summer. Are you seeing a pattern? However, we digress…

Joaquin of Real Betis in 42nd was the most successful, but you can see the whole list at the bottom of the post for the full yesteryear experience.

Introducing our first Liverpool player! Chris Kirkland 38th! Good for a future England number one goalie.

At 20, he became the most expensive British goalkeeper when he joined from Coventry City for £6m in September 2001. However, injuries ended his Anfield career.

He replaced Jerzy Dudek as first-choice under Benitez earlier that season and made 45 appearances in five years, helping the team win the Champions League in 2005. A back issue kept him out of the second half and final of that season.

After four years of depression, he retired in 2016 after permanent moves to Wigan Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday, Preston North End, and Bury. Kirkland is now in a better place, works with the LFC Foundation, and frequents the Anfield press box.

Dean Ashton, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Gareth Barry placed 36th, 35th, and 31st. If not for tenacious Martin O’Neill and Aston Villa, Liverpool would have another representative.

But then, defender Gregory Vignal beat Jermain Defoe to become the Reds’ next top player. After joining the Reds in September 2000, the Frenchman made 20 appearances and was a starter at the start of the 2001/02 season.

However, a broken foot ended his season. After many loan spells, he joined Portsmouth in 2005 and played for Lens, Birmingham City, Atromitos, Dundee United, and AS Beziers before retiring in 2013. FC Versailles appointed him assistant manager this summer after he became a coach.

Milan Baros ranks 21st on FourFourTwo, ahead of Arjen Robben, Maicon, and Ricardo Quaresma. The striker, signed from Banik Ostrava for £3.2m in 2002, made an impact at Anfield in 2002/03. He scored 12 goals.

After recovering from a fractured ankle in September 2003, he won the Golden Boot at Euro 2004 as Czech Republic reached the semi-finals and led Liverpool’s scoring with 13 goals in the 2004/05 Champions League season.

He was transferred to Aston Villa for £6.5m despite Benitez’s best efforts. Lyon, Galatasaray, and Antalyaspor followed before injuries forced his retirement in 2020 after several stays in his native Czech Republic.

In the top 20 now. The top leagues began with Barcelona superstar Andres Iniesta 20th. John Welsh, our next Liverpool entrant, is six spots ahead.

Welsh, once called the ‘next Gerrard’, never lived up to the promise. He was transferred to Hull City in January 2006 for promising winger Paul Anderson after 10 Reds appearances.

Welsh spent much of his career as a League One midfielder with Tranmere Rovers, Preston North End, and Grimsby Town before joining non-league Atherton Collieries and Stafford Rangers. Preston North End has him back as an U18 and U16 coach.

French cousins Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle are ninth and seventh in the top 10. Liverpool signed them in 2001 after they starred at the FIFA Under-17s World Cup, but they stayed at Le Havre for two more years on loan.

Both moved to Anfield in 2003 and helped the Reds win the Champions League in 2005, but they never lived up to early expectations. After several loan spells, Le Tallec joined Le Mans permanently in 2008 after 32 games and one goal.

After relegation with Auxerre and Valenciennes, Atromitos and Astra Giurgiu took him to Greece and Romania. He finished his career with Annecy in 2021 after returning to France with Orleans.

Pongolle did better. The former France international left Liverpool for La Liga in 2006 and impressed with Recreativo de Huelva and Atletico Madrid, scoring nine goals in 65 appearances. His career tanked after a failed move to Sporting Lisbon.

After playing for Rostov, Chicago Fire, Dundee United, and Chainat Hornbill in Russia, USA, Scotland, and Thailand, he returned to France with Saint-Pierroise in 2019.

Stepping over Rafael van der Vaart in sixth, we’re now in the top five with three potential Liverpool players! Imagine the excitement if FourFourTwo created a 2023 list and told you three of the top five would go to Anfield within six years!

Anyway, Jermaine Pennant is fifth. The problematic winger joined Liverpool from relegated Birmingham City in July 2006 for £6.7m, a year after serving 30 days in prison for drink-driving, driving while banned, and driving without insurance.

He flourished at Anfield and was the Reds’ top player when they lost the 2007 Champions League final to AC Milan, making 81 appearances, scoring three goals and 17 assists in two and a half seasons. He broke up with Benitez.

After a move to Real Madrid fell through, he was loaned to Portsmouth in January 2009 and subsequently joined Real Zaragoza on a free transfer the following summer.

He played for Stoke City, Pune City, Wigan Athletic, Tampines Rovers, and Bury before retiring with Billericay Town.

The highest-placed world-class player who won the Champions League, World Cup, and European Championships. Liverpool cult hero Fernando Torres!

The Spaniard, signed for £20m from Atletico Madrid in 2007, became the Reds’ record acquisition and was the world’s top striker for three years, scoring 81 goals in 142 matches.

In January 2011, he controversially moved for Chelsea in a £50m transfer due to ailments.

After a brief spell at AC Milan, he returned Atletico Madrid in January 2015 after failing to regain his form at Stamford Bridge despite winning several titles.

After two seasons with Japanese side Sagan Tosu, he retired in 2019 after reaching the Champions League final in 2016 and won the Europa League in 2018.

Brazilian Leandro Bonfim, then of PSV Eindhoven, is third. No, neither do we. River Plate’s Andres D’Alessandro placed second.

He spent much of his career in South America, but Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth loaned him back in 2006.

We’re #1 on this 100-man list and FourFourTwo’s greatest young player in 2001. Those keeping track will know it’s a future Liverpool player.

No less a Reds record signing. The lone Djibril Cisse is Lord of Frodsham Manor!

Liverpool bought the Frenchman from Auxerre for a club-record £14m in 2004.

After being signed by Gerard Houllier, he won the Champions League, FA Cup, and European Super Cup with Liverpool, but his first of two broken legs against Blackburn Rovers in October 2004 derailed him before he could even start at Anfield.

He returned to score in the 2005 Champions League final penalty shoot-out win over AC Milan and the FA Cup final win over West Ham United to give him 24 goals in 82 games for Liverpool.

It was his last game for the club, as he was loaned to Marseille in the summer of 2006.

After Sunderland and QPR, Panathinaikos, Lazio, Kuban Krasnodar, Bastia, and Saint-Pierroise, he concluded his senior career in Switzerland with Yverdon-Sport.

AC Vicenza and Panathinaikos Chicago have tried to lure him out of retirement, but despite numerous pleadings to top-flight French clubs to recruit him so he may score the four goals he needs to reach 100 in Ligue 1.

Another failure to meet FourFourTwo’s high expectations; maybe Cisse would have done better without those two awful broken legs?

What did we learn from a meaningless exercise before the September international break? Take nothing for granted. A world-beater career is not guaranteed just because a player is highly ranked as a youngster.

Luckily for Liverpool, their Academy is better now than in the early 2000s, when these previous stars were slated for greatness.

Liverpool signed the world’s finest young player in a club-record transfer.