Emre Can, not Jordan Henderson, is Gerrard’s successor at Liverpool




The telecast of the game between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield presented an interesting proposition in terms of symbolism. German automaker Volkswagen’s slogan “The Power of German Engineering” appeared on the top left-hand side of the screen, same time as Liverpool’s man of the match, Emre Can, had produced another wonderful piece of football. It has been a difficult season for Liverpool but the Turkish-German has been a silver lining in the dark cloud for them. A natural defensive midfielder, Can has been magnificent as a part of the back three deployed by Rodgers comprising Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and himself. The effects of that have been visible and telling as Liverpool have not lost a single game in 2015 with their new formation. However, it is not just Can’s footballing abilities but his character that has fast made him an Anfield favourite.

Emre Can, not Jordan Henderson, is Gerrard’s successor at Liverpool

Emre Can, not Jordan Henderson, is Gerrard’s successor at Liverpool

Liverpool’s fans, second possibly only to Borussia Dortmund supporters, have always loved tough characters that put themselves on line for the club. Over the years, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher, Jordan Henderson and Luis Suarez have shown those abilities and, quite naturally, are fan favourites. Can, with all his technical prowess, is a fighter who does not believe in getting bullied and rightfully gives it back. His tussles with the likes of Diego Costa, Romelu Lukaku and Kyle Walker in recent times have brought out the best in him.

As a footballer, Emre Can is blessed with great technical ability, both defensively and in attack, making him a superb asset for Brendan Rodgers. However, it is not just defensive work that Can is adept at doing, for his attacking instincts come to the fore once in a while. In two matches where Liverpool needed a push up front, Rodgers pulled Can out of the back three and deployed him in a “Gerrard” role. The FA Cup tie against Bolton, where Liverpool were trailing 1-0, Can pushed forward and started linking up with Sterling. After having a shot saved by the goalkeeper and then the bar, Can produced a lovely ball that fell on Sterling’s left foot and Liverpool drew level.

The game against Tottenham Hotspur, a crucial one, saw Gerrard being substituted around the 70th minute mark. Not unfazed by Gerrard’s injury, Rodgers brought Dejan Lovren on for the captain and signalled Can to surge forward. Liverpool, for the next 10-15 minute period, put high pressure on Spurs with Can, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana at the helm of it. The efforts paid off dividends when the goal-bereft Mario Balotelli turned in a delightful low cross from Lallana, bringing about a deafening roar from the crowd at Anfield.

For a team that has revolved around Gerrard for the past decade, Liverpool are on their way for a smooth transition post the departure of their talismanic captain. To say that Liverpool will not miss him would be complete blasphemy but the presence of this current crop of young players, especially Emre Can, blossoming into top class ones is surely going to be helpful.

Interestingly, almost a decade back, Rafa Benitez wanted to sign Javi Martinez for Liverpool. As we all know, Martinez did not leave Athletic Bilbao before Benitez left Anfield. However, in Emre Can, Rodgers has found a player who is exactly like Martinez, versatile, strong-willed and technically gifted. And in about a year’s time, we might see Can leading Liverpool out on the pitch at Anfield, symbolising that Gerrard’s successor has arrived.

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