MUMBAI (Reuters) - Liverpool have some amazing talent but are missing a leader cast in the same mould as Steven Gerrard, the Premier League side’s former attacking midfielder Luis Garcia told Reuters.
The Merseyside club dominated English football for two decades from the 1970s and are one of the world’s most successful clubs but have found winning trophies much harder to come by since claiming their last league title 27 years ago.
Former Spain international Garcia was part of the Liverpool side that won one of the most memorable Champions League finals, against AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005, when the English side came from 3-0 down at halftime to win the trophy on penalties.
That, however, remains five-time winners Liverpool’s last success in Europe’s elite club competition and they have failed to even qualify for the tournament in the last two seasons.
Under German manager Juergen Klopp, Liverpool are currently third in the Premier League standings and well positioned with six matches remaining to claim a Champions League berth with a top-four finish.
Garcia feels that while captain Jordan Henderson is doing a good job, Liverpool need someone with world class leadership qualities to guide a squad he believes is brimming with talent.
“This Liverpool side lacks players with character like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, or even Kenny Dalglish in the past,” Garcia said in an interview.
”We don’t see leaders like them much on the pitch. We have amazing talent like (Philippe) Coutinho, (Roberto) Firmino, (Adam) Lallana, (Daniel) Sturridge... so much talent.
“I haven’t been in that dressing room but I am sure a Steven Gerrard-like character would be amazing. He would lead the team when things were not going well.”
Liverpool’s former talismanic captain Gerrard made 710 appearances for his boyhood club during a 17-year spell at Anfield and returned to his roots in February as part of the coaching set-up at the academy.
He scored 186 goals for Liverpool, helping them win two FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA Cup and the Champions League, and remains idolised at the Merseyside club. He was also capped 114 times for England, 40 as captain.
According to Garcia, it was imperative for Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League, not just to keep hold of their best players but also to attract the highest quality transfer.
“If Liverpool qualify, I‘m sure all the top players will stay. Because it’s a special club. Playing Champions League for Liverpool, it’s very special,” Garcia added on the sidelines of the Champions League Trophy tour by sponsors Heineken.
“Champions League qualification is very important. Not because of the players who stay but because of the players who want to come. Top players want to play Champions League, all of them.”
Liverpool are unbeaten in 10 games against top-six teams this season, having won five and drawn five, claiming seven more points than closest rivals Chelsea in that mini-league but they have struggled to dispatch teams further down the table.
Garcia was confident Liverpool would qualify for next season’s Champions League and convinced that Klopp was the right man to lead the side back into title contention.
“The difficult part is to solve the problem of playing against the small teams. It shouldn’t be like that,” the 38-year-old said.
”But hopefully they have got the confidence back and I think they have everything to qualify for the Champions League.
”Klopp gave us moments against (Manchester) United, against Chelsea and against Arsenal. Winning those games with an amazing passion and amazing performance. I think he’s the right manager.
“People love him, we all love him. He has shown how passionate he’s about the club.”
Editing by John O'Brien