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Talent factories

Liverpool's best academy graduates of all time: From Fowler to Gerrard, Carragher and Alexander-Arnold

2:00 PM WAT 10/08/2022
Alexander-Arnold Fowler Gerrard Liverpool talent factory GFX
GOAL selects the greatest players produced at one of the world's most famous talent factories

Nothing gets a supporters’ pulse racing like a home-grown hero, and Liverpool have had plenty of those down the years.

From Ian Callaghan, holder of the club’s all-time record appearance record, to Trent Alexander-Arnold, the current ‘Scouser in the team’, the Reds have always been able to call upon players who have the club in their heart and soul, and who have understood and even helped form ‘The Liverpool Way.’

Below, GOAL takes a look at some of the finest players to have emerged from the club’s prolific youth system…

  • Steven Gerrard Liverpool

    Steven Gerrard

    There has been no finer or more influential footballer to pull on the famous red shirt. 

    Gerrard joined the Reds at the age of eight, making his senior debut in 1998. By the time he left the club, 17 years later, he had made 710 appearances, scored 185 goals and won nine major honours, along with 114 England caps and countless individual awards.

    The memories are countless, and Gerrard would later return to Liverpool as U18s coach. He now manages Aston Villa, and is seen by many as the natural successor to Jurgen Klopp in the Anfield hotseat.

  • Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool Community Shield 2022-23

    Trent Alexander-Arnold

    The jewel in Liverpool’s Kirkby academy, and the player against whom all future graduates will be measured.

    Alexander-Arnold was a wiry, ulta-competitive midfield player when working his way through the youth ranks, but since making his senior debut for the Reds in 2016 he has developed into the ultimate modern-day full-back, a prolific creator, mesmerising passer of the ball and, at 23, a winner of every major club honour.

    By the time he finishes, he will be one of Liverpool’s best ever, without doubt.

  • Robbie Fowler Liverpool Birmingham 07271995

    Robbie Fowler

    Few Liverpool players before or since have been as adored as Fowler, or evoke such fond memories.

    ‘The Toxteth Terror’ burst onto the scene as a teenager, scoring on his Reds debut against Fulham in the League Cup in 1993 and then, in the return leg, netting five times at Anfield a fortnight later.

    He would pass 30 goals in three of his first four seasons in professional football, thrilling with his ability to produce just about any type of finish. Injuries would eventually slow his rise, but he still scored in both the League Cup and UEFA Cup finals of 2001, as Liverpool won a remarkable treble of cup competitions.

    He left for Leeds the following season, but would make an emotional return to Anfield in 2006. The roar which greeted his second ‘debut’ against Birmingham will never be forgotten. He was, is and always will be one of Anfield’s favourite sons.

  • Ian Callaghan

    Ian Callaghan

    Liverpool’s all-time record appearance-maker, a World Cup winner and an absolute gentleman to go with it.

    Callaghan played 857 times for the Reds between 1960 and 1978, a record which is unlikely to ever be surpassed. He was a key part of the side which won the Second Division title under Bill Shankly in 1962, and the one which lifted the FA Cup for the first time three years later.

    He finished with five First Division winners’ medals, two European Cups, two UEFA Cups and two FA Cups, and was named Footballer of the Year in 1974. A relentless professional, and one of the true Anfield greats.

  • Phil Thompson Liverpool 1980

    Phil Thompson

    One of the most passionate Reds you could ever wish to meet and one of only two Scousers – Steven Gerrard is the other – to have lifted the European Cup as Liverpool captain.

    Thompson was given his debut under Bill Shankly in 1972, and would go on to play 477 times for the club before his departure in 1985. Later, he would enjoy spells as reserve-team manager and assistant to Gerard Houllier, where he achieved great success.

    With seven league titles, two European Cups, four League Cups, three UEFA Cups and two FA Cups, he is one of the most decorated figures in the club’s history.

  • On this Day Michael Owen Liverpool

    Michael Owen

    He would later sour his relationship with the club somewhat, but it’s easy to forget just how much of a phenomenon Owen was when bursting onto the scene in the late-1990s.

    Lightning quick and a ruthless finisher, the Chester-born striker still sits ninth in the club’s all-time goalscoring list, and has a better goals-to-game ratio than the likes of Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler.

    But his departure to Real Madrid in 2004 stung, and subsequent spells at Newcastle and, most surprisingly, Manchester United mean Owen will never be held in the same affection as other great Reds centre-forwards.

    On his day, though, he was as good as any.

  • Jamie Carragher Liverpool 2013

    Jamie Carragher

    A one-club man, Carragher sits second behind Callaghan on Liverpool’s all-time appearance list, having played 737 times in a 17-year Reds career.

    The ultimate team player, he started as a striker before dropping back into midfield. He would win the treble in 2001 as a left-back, move across to right-back after that and then, under Rafa Benitez, emerge as one of the steadiest, most reliable centre-halves in Europe.

    His part in the 2005 Champions League triumph was huge, and he remained a key figure right up to his retirement in 2013. The ovation he got that day said it all; an Anfield legend, no question. 

    Now one of the best TV pundits in the business.

  • Tommy Smith Liverpool

    Tommy Smith

    “Tommy Smith wasn’t born, he was quarried,” is one of Bill Shankly’s more famous quotes, and neatly sums up the toughness of one of Liverpool’s heroes of the 1960s and 70s.

    Nicknamed ‘The Anfield Iron’, Smith was a versatile defender who was part of the legendary FA Cup-winning side of 1965, and who would later score a memorable header against Borussia Monchengladbach in the club’s first European Cup final triumph 12 years later.

    With 638 senior appearances, he sits eighth on the club’s all-time list.

  • Steve McManaman Liverpool

    Steve McManaman

    One of the club’s most underrated players, and someone who, along with Fowler, carried so much on his shoulders during the 1990s.

    McManaman made his debut under Kenny Dalglish, and would develop into a key player under Graeme Souness. He was a key figure in their FA Cup triumph of 1992, and man of the match in the 1995 League Cup final win under Roy Evans too.

    His relationship with Fowler, on and off the pitch, was key, McManaman the selfless, ball-carrying creator, Fowler the devastatingly-effective finisher.

    McManaman eventually left for Real Madrid in 1999, souring his relationship with some supporters by departing on a free transfer, but in Spain he would win the Champions League twice, scoring in the 2000 final, and become one of England’s most successful footballing exports.

  • Ronnie Moran Liverpool

    Ronnie Moran

    How could we possibly leave out the man they called ‘Mr Liverpool’ from this list?

    Bootle-born Moran made his Reds debut in 1952, and was associated with the club in some capacity right up until his retirement as coach in 1998. Even after that, he was a regular at Melwood, a welcome and popular presence, who could usually be found jogging around the famous old training ground.

    He was a fine player in his own right, good enough to play 379 times for the club, but it was as a coach that he left his true legacy. Speak to any player to have played for Liverpool during the 70s, 80s and 90s, and they’ll tell you that Moran was integral to any success that came the Reds’ way.

    Known for his relentlessly high standards and fierce discipline, it was he who drilled the players repeatedly in ‘The Liverpool Way’; humility, hard-work, selflessness and ambition. He hated ‘Big Heads’ and would regularly bring into line those who were letting their concentration wander.

    It’s a crowded field, but Moran is perhaps the greatest Liverpudlian of them all.