Having watched in disbelief and admiration several Tuesday’s ago as Georginio Wijnaldum and his Liverpool team-mates dismantled Barcelona, I began to think about the incredible history of foreign players at Anfield. Will one of them be the difference maker on Saturday night in Madrid?
I’ve come up with a list of 5 foreign players who at some point over the last 30 years have graced the hallowed turf and given The Kop some unbelievable memories. Over the next 5 weeks you will be able to catch each episode on our Twitter feed and Facebook pages.
Today, we begin with the Danish midfield maestro, Jan Molby. There really is no better place to start than with Molby as he was probably the first real foreigner at Liverpool to show top continental class and passing ability. The English game was missing out on that particular style of play at the time and the Reds’ fans certainly appreciated his passing range and ability to keep possession.
Molby was born 4th July 1963 in Kolding, Denmark. Football was his passion and it became apparent that he had plenty to offer the sport. By the age of 19 he was captain of the biggest club in his region.
Performances in his homeland earnt him a move to Dutch powerhouse Ajax in ’82. This is where he played alongside legend Johan Cruyff. The short time there (two seasons) was successful with a Dutch Championship being won in ’83 and 11 goals over his 57 appearances.
The Liverpool manager at the time Joe Fagan was keen on Molby and invited him to a trial with the club during the Summer of ’84. Suitably impressed, he was signed but during the first season he and the club struggled. It was the first dry (no trophies) campaign for the club since ’75.
This led to a new manager, none other than Kop legend Kenny Dalglish who continued to play during this spell. Dalglish rated Molby and made him a regular in the first team, usually deploying him as a deeper lying mid-come sweeper. As matches got deeper into the second half, Liverpool would turn the screw a little more and Molby would play in more advanced positions.
The ’85/86 season was the best of Molby’s club career. He netted an incredible haul of 21 goals that term and put in a simply magical performance in the FA Cup final against Merseyside rivals Everton. For that outing he won the Man of the Match award, a nice personal accolade to go alongside the amazing group achievement of winning the domestic double of the First Division Title and the FA Cup.
Penalties were something Molby handled with aplomb. He introduced himself as the man to handle spot-kicks in the home match against Tottenham in September of ’85, he converted two in that match. Slightly more special for the Liverpool faithful was the one against fierce rivals Man United in November that year. Along with his pen, Molby scored another from open play and that sent the Red Devils packing with a final score of Liverpool 2 Man United 1.
Molby is one of only a few professional players to ever score a hat-trick of penalties in a match. This rare accomplishment came against Coventry in a League Cup 4th round replay at Anfield.
During the pre-season of ’87, Molby copped a foot injury which ultimately was a lot more significant than first expected. It led to missing the first third of the season and other players, namely Ronnie Whelan excelled in his position when taking over. The season was a write-off for Molby with the Whelan/McMahon combination being Dalglish’s preferred pairing.
The ’88/89 season saw a return to the team but playing altogether deeper than before, in central defence. This was to cover for the injured Alan Hansen. He acquitted himself well at the back and the new role didn’t stop him scoring a massive winning goal against United early in the season.
Through the next few seasons, there were several ups and downs for Molby. Largely having to rely on injuries to Whelan to get back into the team under Dalglish and Souness. An interesting running theme throughout these years was the massive amount of support Molby got from the Kopites and even figures from other clubs for more playing time.
Barcelona felt Molby still had plenty to offer and even had a £1.6 million bid accepted in Novemeber ’90. The move ultimately broke down after negotiations stalled. For Liverpool that was fortunate as ’91 was a good year for the Dane managing more consecutive game time than in recent years and also an admirable 8/8 penalties scored.
Another FA Cup was to arrive at Anfield in the ’91/92 season and a good run in UEFA Cup. Molby played a big part in both competitions and it was seen as a solid season for the now Kop favourite.
An injury early in the ’92/93 season was probably the point in which Molby knew his time at the top table was naturally starting to end. There were obviously plenty of clubs that wanted a player of his skill and experience, even allowing for a lack of peak fitness. There were loan spells at Barnsley and Norwich but his days at Liverpool were by far and away his brightest.
When I talk to Liverpool fans of a certain age range, Molby is a name that always comes up in conversation. They loved him as a player and seem to have felt a connection with him as a bloke too. Molby’s 62 goals over his time with The Reds were impressive given the actual playing time and positions he played. As far as his penalty taking goes, he was deadly and is right up there with the very best we have seen in the top echelons of the English game.