Jamie Carragher’s remarkable Liverpool career came to a pleasant end with a characteristic clean-sheet and a routine win over relegated Queens Park Rangers at Anfield on Sunday.
In-form attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho – the £8m January signing from Italian giants Inter – broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute, collecting a ball from the impressive 17-year-old debutant Jordon Ibe before placing a 25-yard strike past Robert Green. The creative Brazilian, who has put in some superb performances since his switch to Anfield, tried his best to steal one-club man Carragher’s limelight, but in the end it was Carragher’s big day and the supporters gave the centre-back a fabulous reception throughout the afternoon.
Much has been written about Carragher’s glittering playing career in recent months – the 737 appearances, the trophies he won and the memories he leaves behind. However, the Carragher era is now over. That is a reality Liverpool will have to learn to get used to. His absence may not be fully felt until the start of the new season in August, but his unique qualities were of such importance to the club that it will be almost impossible to replace him. Brendan Rodgers has had some time to consider this, but he may be struggling to find an answer to the following question – how do you replace a player like Carragher?
The Reds’ boss reintroduced Carragher to the starting line-up midway through the campaign and explained that the former England international’s leadership qualities played a big role in his decision to place him ahead of Martin Skrtel in the pecking order. With that in mind, will Rodgers look to sign an experienced player to replace Carragher this summer? Swansea skipper Ashley Williams has been constantly linked with a move to Liverpool since Rodgers’ arrival last summer.
Another option would be to continue with the current trend of buying talented youngsters with promising futures. Schalke’s Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos is reportedly on the radar. Rodgers may even decide to promote from within. Both Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom are capable of playing at centre-half = could they replace Carragher in the long-term?
The futures of Skrtel and Sebastian Coates will also play an important part in Rodgers’ decisions this summer. In addition to Carragher hanging up his boots, should Liverpool lose the services of Slovakian star Skrtel, then they would surely need to bring in a player with experience to organise the defence. It may turn out that the Anfield outfit will use all of the options described above to fix the back-line – by signing an experienced defender, an up-and-coming centre-back and by promoting from within. And still they will find it difficult to adequately replace one of the biggest figures in Liverpool’s rich history.
With the annual customary feeling among fans that the Reds are just a few quality signings away from achieving big things, the summer promises to be an exciting one for Liverpool. But among the sense of hope and excitement, every supporter will know that Carragher will not be returning – and after the many years of outstanding service he has provided to the Anfield club, that will be a depressing thought.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG