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Rating every Liverpool number nine of the Premier League era

Darwin Nunez has been named as the new Liverpool number nine for the 2023/24 campaign, with the Uruguayan inheriting the illustrious shirt from the departed Roberto Firmino.

The number nine carries a weight of expectation at most clubs, with Liverpool among those to have a proud history when it comes to centre-forwards adorning the shirt.

Nunez will hope to build on a modest first season at Liverpool with the added confidence of a new shirt number and following the announcement that the 24-year-old has switched shirts, we’ve decided to rank every Liverpool number nine of the Premier League era.

Rating every Liverpool number nine of the Premier League era.

Ian Rush

Ian Rush is Liverpool’s all-time record goalscorer after a decorated – and prolific – career at Anfield. Signed from Chester City for a record fee for a teenager at that time, Liverpool’s £300,000 investment would be repaid handsomely.

Rush scored a record-breaking 346 goals for the club in all competitions across two spells, punctuated by an ill-fated single season sojourn to Juventus.

The 1983/94 campaign proved a spectacular season as Rush scored 47 goals to fire Liverpool to a league, League Cup and European Cup treble, with his performances recognised with the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award and European Golden Boot.

Rush’s best football came before the dawn of the Premier League, but he scored a respectable 45 goals in the rebranded top-flight for the Reds.

Rating: 10/10 – His best was before the Premier League, but the Reds’ record scorer deserves full marks.

Robbie Fowler

Fortunately for Liverpool, the Reds had a readymade Rush replacement in the form of Robbie Fowler.

The Toxteth teenager burst onto the scene with one of the most memorable introductions to a Premier League career, scoring 30+ goals in each of his first three full seasons and earning back-to-back PFA Young Player of the Year awards.

Fowler was a frightening finisher and one of the most natural goalscorers the Premeir League has seen, capable of beating goalkeepers from all manner of angles and distances. He scored 116 goals in the three-and-a-half seasons that followed his debut in 1993, before fitness issues began to plague the forward.

Injuries and the emergence of Michael Owen saw Fowler’s role reduced, but he scored 17 goals as Liverpool won an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2000/01. He departed having scored 171 goals in 330 appearances in all competitions, before returning for a short second spell under Rafael Benitez.

A local lad with a gift for goalscoring, there’s good reason the Kop call him ‘God’.

Rating: 9/10 – Exhilarating early emergence halted with injuries. A special finisher.

Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka’s nomadic career took in a short stop at Liverpool during the 2001/02 season, with the Reds securing the signing of the French forward on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.

Anelka complimented a forward line that already contained Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, as Gerard Houllier’s side finished as runners-up in the Premier League.

The loanee scored a modest five goals in 22 games, but there was unhappiness when Houllier decided against turning Anelka’s move into a permanent one. It is a decision which still rankles.

Rating: 6/10 – What might have been…

El Hadji Diouf

Houllier’s decision not to sign Anelka came as a result of Liverpool’s interest in El Hadji Diouf, whose capture of the Lens forward seemed like shrewd business as Diouf starred for Senegal at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Diouf marked his home debut with a brace against Southampton, but endured a seven-month drought before his next Liverpool goal. He scored just three times in 55 league appearances for the Reds, including a goalless 2003/04 campaign.

Several spitting incidents – including during a UEFA Cup quarter-final at Celtic – made Diouf an unpopular figure, a reputation since increased after numerous public spats with Liverpool legends Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

Rating: 1/10 – An attitude and inflated ego that did not match his talent. Waging war with Liverpool’s favourite sons was a recipe for disaster.

Djibril Cisse

Signed in the same summer that saw Michael Owen depart, Cisse appeared an ideal replacement with his lightning pace and instinctive finishing.

A debut goal increased optimism, but a horrific broken leg derailed his debut season. He returned (rapidly) to score in the shootout as Liverpool beat AC Milan in the Champions League final, before scoring 19 goals during an impressive 2005/06.

That return included a fine goal in the FA Cup final win over West Ham, though it proved to be his final for the club as he departed for Marseille on loan following the arrivals of Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt.

Rating: 6/10 – Injury perhaps prevented Cisse from reaching the level expected. Still, decent at times.

Fernando Torres

Liverpool’s number nine remained vacant for a season until Fernando Torres inherited the shirt upon his club-record arrival from Atletico Madrid.

Rarely has a new signing hit the ground running quite like the Spanish striker, who won the hearts of the Liverpool fans with a series of electric performances.

Torres scored 33 goals in all competitions during his first season and while his best was brief, for a short period at Liverpool he was arguably the finest centre-forward in Europe.

Explosive, exciting and clinical, his popularity at Anfield means most have since forgiven his British transfer record defection to Chelsea in 2011. That he was pretty s*** at Stamford Bridge probably helped.

Rating: 9/10 – A short but sweet spell as Europe’s best number nine.

Andy Carroll

Has there ever been a deadline day quite like January 2011?

Fernando Torres waved adios to Liverpool to sign for Chelsea in a £50m record deal, with the Reds wasting no time in reinvesting the funds to sign Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

One of the new arrivals evolved into the Premier League’s finest talent, producing three-and-a-half seasons of goalscoring genius that soon made Liverpool forget about Torres’ traitorship in heading for Chelsea.

The other was Andy Carroll.

A late FA Cup semi-final winner against Everton and a thunderbastard against Manchester City marginally improve the giant Geordie’s mark, having scored just 11 goals in 58 appearances after his £35m club-record move to Merseyside.

Rating: 3/10 – One of the Premier League’s most memorable panic buys.

Iago Aspas

Iago Aspas is a name best remembered in the Premier League as the Spanish striker who flopped at Liverpool and once took arguably the worst corner in the division’s history.

For those who watch La Liga, the connotations are a fantastic forward who has scored a club-record 196 goals for Celta Vigo.

Remarkably, it’s the same player.

Rating: 2/10 – Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

Rickie Lambert

Rickie Lambert’s childhood dream came true after the forward completing a move to Liverpool.

Lambert, once of Macclesfield Town, Stockport Country, Rochdale and er… a beetroot factory, had risen through the lower leagues before making a splash at Southampton.

Brendan Rodgers looked to hedge his bets following the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, signing the experienced Scouser alongside the promising Fabio Borini and unpredictable Mario Balotelli.

None of that trio proved to be a success.

Rating: 2/10 – A dream-come-true tale for Lambert, less so for Liverpool.

Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke’s powerful presence made him one of the Premier League’s most effective forwards at Aston Villa, where a return of 42 goals in 89 league games persuaded Liverpool to spend £32.5m on his services.

The Belgium international appeared an odd fit for Brendan Rodgers’ preferred brand of football and so it proved, as Benteke struggled to replicate his Villa form and scored just 10 goals in 42 appearances.

An audacious overhead kick at Manchester United was a highlight, but the big-money recruit was allowed to leave after just one season. His brilliant best at Villa has rarely been seen since.

Rating: 5/10 – An awkward fit.

Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino was not signed to be Liverpool’s number nine, but a change of manager and position saw the Brazilian evolve into a modern great.

Firmino was moved into a centre-forward position after Jurgen Klopp’s arrival as manager and from there thrived as the facilitator of the club’s formidable front three, dropping deep into half-spaces and bringing the best from those around.

The first line of defence with relentless work-ethic and the creative hub of the side when in possession, Firmino excelled as ‘false nines’ became popularised and Liverpool won a wealth of honours under Klopp.

In tandem with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, Firmino tormented defences at home and in Europe, with the Samba showman winning everything in the process.

Rating: 9/10 – Called the engine of Klopp’s Liverpool for good reason.

Read – Noughties Nines: Nicolas Anelka – Sullen and spectacular

Read Also – Midfield Magicians: Xabi Alonso, the grand master of 4D chess

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