Jamie Carragher has never played for anyone but Liverpool and the chances are he never will. In an age where players move clubs for a couple of extra grand a week, Carragher stands out as a throwback to a bygone era. Liverpool are his club - not just because they pay his wages but because of the connection he feels with the side.
It is a testament to the power of Liverpool FC that Carragher, an ardent Everton fan as a boy, has turned into one of their heroes. The boy from Bootle had to keep his allegiances to the blue half of Merseyside quiet when he first joined the Liverpool set-up in 1994 but since then there has been no doubting where his heart lies.
A member of Liverpool’s famous FA Youth Cup-winning side of 1996 alongside Michael Owen, Carragher’s emergence in the senior side coincided with a new era of success in Liverpool’s history.
A true professional and team player, Carragher’s willingness to play wherever he was needed may have hampered his early career at Anfield. Slotting in anywhere across the back four or even in defensive midfield, Carragher seemed to be heading towards that unwanted ‘utility player’ tag.
That all changed with the arrival of Rafa Benitez in 2004, possibly the greatest single influence on the Liverpool lad’s career. The former Valencia boss immediately put Carragher in central defence and there he stayed and blossomed into one of the best centre-halves in the country.
The Reds under Benitez were built on a strong defence and Carragher is the cornerstone of that rearguard. An inspiration to his team-mates, Carragher is the club’s vice captain and only one man could possibly stop him from captaining Liverpool – Steven Gerrard. The pair are great friends and together have driven the side on to numerous trophies.
The greatest victory of all came in Istanbul when Liverpool came back from the dead to beat AC Milan. A fantastic comeback from the Reds took the side to a penalty shoot-out where Jerzy Dudek made himself a hero by saving from Andriy Shevchenko to win Liverpool their fifth European Cup. Dudek and the goalscorers may have got most of the praise but no Liverpool fan will forget the crucial interceptions Carragher made in extra-time to take Liverpool into the shoot-out.
Carragher won 34 caps for his country before retiring in 2007 and was unfortunate to play at a time when England was blessed with so many excellent centre-halves. The performances of the likes of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry limited his chances at international level. His true worth to his country, however, was made plain when he was coaxed out of retirement for the World Cup 2010 by Fabio Capello. Capello recognised the consistency and experience that Liverpool fans had been adulatiing for years. Carragher has already played over 500 games for Liverpool and with plenty of gas in the tank, who knows how many he will rack up by the end of his career.