Liverpool number 9s of the Premier League era - ranked

Tom Barnes
11 months ago

Liverpool have announced that Darwin Nuñez will wear the number nine shirt from the start of the 2023/24 campaign.

Following the emotional departure of Roberto Firmino this summer, Nuñez has the daunting test of living up to the quality, excitement and the memories the Brazilian brought during his eight-year stay on Merseyside.

READ MORE: Now is the time to judge harshly-treated Darwin Nuñez

It's not just Firmino who has cast a long shadow over the that particular shirt. The Reds have been blessed with numerous greats wearing the number nine throughout the years, many in the Premier League.

There have also been some less memorable wearers...

Here's a look back at all 11 men to don the number nine shirt for Liverpool in the Premier League era, ranked from worst to best.


11. Iago Aspas

After signing for the Reds from Celta Vigo for £7m in the summer of 2013, excitement amongst Liverpool fans built after a promising first pre-season, but once competitive matches arrived, Iago Aspas failed to live up to the hype.

The Spaniard featured just 15 times under Brendan Rodgers and only managed to find the net once ... in an FA Cup tie ... against Oldham Athletic.

Unfortunately, his most memorable contribution to the Premier League was that corner. Shudder.

Following a loan spell to Sevilla in the following season, Aspas returned to Celta Vigo where goals began to flow again for the striker, with Liverpool fans looking on baffled as he became one of Spain's best forwards.

10. Rickie Lambert

After being let go by his boyhood club at the age of fifteen, Rickie Lambert rejoined Liverpool for £4.5m from Southampton in the summer of 2014 and was handed the number 9 shirt, in what looked to be something of a fairytale. However, it turned out to be more of the grim kind.

Lambert was only ever a bit-parter, starting only 12 games in the 2014/15 campaign (he also made 24 substitute appearances) and scoring just three goals.

His dream move was short-lived as only a year on from re-joining the Anfield side, he was shipped out to West Brom.

9. El Hadji Diouf

El Hadji Diouf was signed for a club-record fee at Liverpool, arriving as Africa's Player of the Year after helping Senegal reach the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup.

But after scoring two goals on his Anfield debut against Southampton, Diouf couldn't live up to the early excitement and he netted just three league goals all season in 2002/03 — a pitiful return for such a big money signing.

He was later often farmed out on the right in Gerard Houllier's side, while discipline problems and those infamous spitting incidents did not endear him to the fans.

After recording six goals and seven assists in 80 appearances, Diouf went out on loan to Sam Allardyce's Bolton Wanderers before a permanent deal was agreed one year later.

8. Andy Carroll

 

In a bid to replace the departing Fernando Torres in January 2011, Liverpool agreed a club-record £35m deal with Newcastle for the signing of Andy Carroll, a deal that shocked the footballing world and made the target man the most expensive British player in history.

Despite a memorable early brace against Manchester City, Carroll looked immediately unsuited to life at Liverpool, while the price tag and shirt number seemed to weigh heavy on his broad shoulders.

While Kenny Dalglish stuck by Carroll for a full season, the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in 2011 meant the end of the road for the forward, who had managed just 11 goals in 58 outings at Liverpool.

A loan move to West Ham became a permanent deal in the summer of 2013.

7. Christian Benteke

Following three successful seasons with Aston Villa, Christian Benteke joined Liverpool for £32m in 2015 with Rodgers ready to go big on a new target man as his number nine.

Having lost Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling in successive summers, the Reds needed a player that could take on the burden of being the club's main goal threat.

Despite being Rodgers' pick, Benteke never seemed suited to Liverpool's style of play and — while he started life at Anfield with four goals in his first nine appearances — the Belgian's confidence seem to deteriorate game by game as he failed to truly adapt to his new surroundings.

Benteke recorded 10 goals in 42 appearances during his only season at Anfield, before moving to Crystal Palace.

6. Nicolas Anelka 

Despite only being on loan at Liverpool for one year on loan from PSG, Nicolas Anelka's short time at Anfield was a pretty successful one.

During his brief stay, Anelka became a fan favourite as he played his part in helping Liverpool finish second in the 2001/02 Premier League season, though he only scored four goals himself.

Ultimately, fans were left to rue manager Houllier's decision to splash out Diouf in the summer of 2002, rather than securing Anelka — who would later impress at Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea — on a permanent deal.

5. Djibril Cisse

With his transfer to Anfield already agreed before the arrival of Rafa Benitez in the summer of 2004, Cisse experienced some rotten luck on Merseyside, suffering a fracture to the tibia and fibula in his first season. He did, however, return in time to play his part in that night in Istanbul — scoring a penalty in the shootout.

Another club-record signing, Cisse was never truly embraced by Benitez, though did begin to find some form and regular game time in his second season — with a brace in the Super Cup against CSKA Moscow one of the flamboyant Frenchman's most famous moments.

All in all Cisse scored a respectable 24 goals across the two seasons he was on Merseyside. His injury luck never really improved though, and he suffered another leg break before leaving for Lyon in 2006.

4. Ian Rush

I think it's fairly obvious to say that Rush's best years came before the introduction of the Premier League, yet in the post 1992 era, the Welshman's numbers were still impressive — recording 48 goals and 13 assists in 175 outings.

The epitome of a Liverpool legend, it goes without saying if this was an all-time list, the moustachioed hit man would undoubtedly be in the top spot.

3. Fernando Torres

 

Fernando Torres joined Liverpool from Atletico Madrid for £20m in 2007 to much fanfare and immediately set the Kop alight.

The Reds blonde assassin took to the Premier League with ease, becoming the fastest Liverpool player to score 50 league goals (72 games) — a record since bettered by Mohamed Salah.

The Spaniard also built up a near telepathic relationship with Steven Gerrard with the pair nearly driving the Reds to a Premier League title in 2009, and giving Nemanja Vidic nightmares.

Torres left Liverpool with 81 goals in 142 appearances — a tally that would've been substantially higher but for his injury troubles — and was never really the same player again.

2. Roberto Firmino

Pass the ball to Bobby and he will score...

There just aren't enough superlatives for the Brazilian. The spearhead of Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team that ended the 30-year wait for a league title, achieving a Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Super Cup and the Club World Cup too.

A player that often lived in the shadow of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane, but the two wingers would be the first to say that without Firmino gluing the system together, this phenomenal front three wouldn't have got the numbers it did.

Firmino brought so many memories during his eight-year stay at Liverpool and was a favourite both with his teammates and the supporters.

A true Liverpool legend.

1. Robbie Fowler

 

There are finishers and then there are finishers and Robbie Fowler, or "God" as he was known, was a finisher.

The Toxteth-born local hero recorded 183 goals in 369 appearances across two spells at Liverpool, only recently losing his status as the Reds' all-time leading Premier League top goalscorer to Salah.

A whirlwind of a talent when he first broke through in the 90s, Fowler put five past Fulham, scored a hat-trick in four minutes and a netted a brace in that 4-3 win over Newcastle.

While injuries took their toll, the striker was still a key man for Houllier's treble winners by 2001 — scoring in the FA Cup semi-final versus Wycombe and grabbing Liverpool's fourth against Alavez in the UEFA Cup — and even made his mark as he returned for Benitez's side in 2006.

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