Even Jurgen Klopp found it difficult to settle on a reliable backline during his early tenure as Liverpool manager.
Having made over 700 appearances for Liverpool, club legend Jamie Carragher unsurprisingly proved a difficult man to replace in the heart of defence after his retirement in 2013.
We’ve ranked the 10 central defenders Liverpool have signed since Carra left, from worst to best.
10. Tiago Ilori
Given two-thirds of his appearances for Liverpool were against Exeter in the 2015-16 FA Cup, Ilori’s spell at Liverpool was less memorable than the music output of The Saturdays.
In fairness, he forged a decent career at Reading before moving to Sporting Lisbon in 2019, where he was reunited with another legendary former Liverpool defender in Sebastian Coates.
9. Sepp van den Berg
Another youngster who has failed to make a league appearance to date, Van den Berg appeared in that FA Cup game against Shrewsbury alongside every other teenager in the Merseyside area.
Still only 18, there remains every chance that the Dutchman can rise up this list in future years.
8. Steven Caulker
A defender signed as an emergency striker… we cannot help rating this so much. Who cares that he didn’t score?
READ: Ranking Liverpool’s 27 weirdest signings of the Premier League era
7. Mamadou Sakho
From a distance, Sakho’s time at Anfield reads like a Basil Fawlty-esque catalogue of disasters: from leaving the stadium after being dropped for a Merseyside derby, being falsely accused of violating UEFA anti-doping rules to Klopp banishing him from the 2016 pre-season tour of America for consistent lateness.
However, this was interspersed with impressive runs of form during Sakho’s three years at Liverpool. If anything this made him an even more maddening case.
A good defender, who always seemed one sandwich short of a full picnic.
6. Kolo Toure
An absolute howler at West Brom aside, which left Toure squinting like Mr Magoo searching for his contact lenses, the Ivory Coast legend proved a competent and popular figure at Liverpool between 2013 and 2016.
If we were ranking this list on goal celebrations alone, then Kolo would have been a runaway winner.
Who could forget that goal and celebration! 😄
Happy birthday, Kolo Toure. 🥳🙌 pic.twitter.com/9v877Ai6or
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 19, 2019
5. Ragnar Klavan
If we’re being unkind we’d suggest Klavan was the definition of a journeyman footballer, a label that’s only strengthened by the fact he once failed a trial at Sunderland.
This would ignore that Klavan was actually a decent player for Liverpool. Highlights included being named man of the match at Goodison Park in 2016 and scoring a last-minute winner away at Burnley in January 2018.
Cheap, cheerful and surprisingly good – Liverpool have had far worse.
4. Joel Matip
Despite being more prone to injury than Sideshow Bob in a field of rakes, Matip has proven himself to be a fine central defender for Liverpool.
As well as being solid in defence, the Cameroon international also has the happy habit of popping up with a goal or two each season.
Like a trusty can of kidney beans in the kitchen cupboard, Matip is not bad to have around.
READ: We have now entered the age of Joel Matip 2.0 at Liverpool
3. Joe Gomez
It’s surprising that Gomez has been at Anfield for five years now.
Signed by Brendan Rodgers at a time when Liverpool’s approach to transfers involved a blindfold and a dartboard, Gomez has blossomed into a fine defender for both club and country.
Another player who, but for a consistent string of injuries, could potentially be described as world-class.
2. Dejan Lovren
Lovren quickly became a byword for hapless defending during his first years on Merseyside. This was a player who was once substituted after half an hour of ineptitude against Tottenham, a club that has continually redefined the word.
While never truly inspiring confidence, Lovren stuck around long enough to win the grudging respect of Liverpool’s fanbase.
The Croatia international also scored the winner in their sensational comeback win over Borussia Dortmund in 2016, providing Liverpool with yet another mind-bending European night, and was exceptional in their run to the Champions League final in 2017-18.
Leaving for Zenit after the 2020 title win, his departure was mourned by fans of slapstick comedy. The reaction of Liverpool fans was rather more subdued. Despite all the jibes, he did a lot of good.
1. Virgil van Dijk
READ: The making of Virgil van Dijk: ‘Quick, strong, confident’…and a handy striker
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