ANOTHER European night, another reason for Liverpool’s statisticians to scribble another entry into their books.
While, inevitably, the focus was on Steven Gerrard after he took his tally of European goals to 33, surpassing Alan Shearer as Britain’s all-time leading scorer in continental competition, there was another significant foot note.
Four years and one month after joining Liverpool from Brondby, Daniel Agger made his 100th appearance for the club; only when you fully consider the date he actually arrived on Merseyside can you begin to put that achievement into context.
By rights, Agger should be closer to a double ton than just getting the single to notch his maiden century but, as the figure would suggest, things have not always gone according to plan for the Denmark international.
Injuries, of course, have been a source of enormous frustration, both for him and Rafa Benitez, a series of problems that have led him to spend months rather than weeks on the sidelines; in the worst case scenario, they have written off seasons.
So frustrating. On more than one occasion, the effortless way Agger can cover the ground moving forward or spirit the ball off an opposing forward’s foot have led him to be likened to Alan Hansen.
Agger is one of those players to whom everything about the game comes easy, a terrific, natural talent whom it is a privilege to watch in close quarters, as he has skills that many attacking players don’t possess.
Before Liverpool played Debrecen in Budapest last November, Benitez was overseeing a training session the night before at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium, looking for those who would press their claims for a starting place.
The longer the session progressed, the more the individual who was wrapped up in a rain jacket and a woolly hat to combat the elements stood out; all feints, quick passes and subtle movement, at first glance it was easy to assume it was Alberto Aquilani.
Not so. Agger was the man stealing the show, proving why so many clubs wanted to sign him when it became clear that Brondby, where he started his career under the guidance of the Danish legend, Michael Laudrup.
“Daniel is a very good player and if he can put his injury problems behind him and play at a high level in the next few years, then maybe you will be talking about him in the same breath,” Laudrup said recently, when asked to compare Agger with Hansen.
“To play 100 times for a top club like Liverpool is something to be proud of. But he will be frustrated that the injuries have restricted his appearances. It’s important that he now goes on to enjoy a spell free from injury.
“He’s only 25 and there is still much more to come from him. Ask any player in the world, even the greats – you can’t hit top form if you have niggling injuries. If he can stay fit then I think he can definitely be one of the best central defenders in the game.”
The question now, however, is when does his potential become consistently fulfilled? With Sami Hyppia long gone and Martin Skrtel facing a long lay-off after cracking a metatarsal, Liverpool need another centre-back to ease the pressure on Jamie Carragher.
There is absolutely no doubt that Agger has the talent for the job; it is difficult to think of a centre-forward that has ever given him the run around, while there are not many defenders who can strike a ball as sweetly as he.
Quite simply, he has the lot; athleticism, skill, strength and speed but, until he puts together a lengthy sequence of games without breaking down, his talents, quite possibly, will not get the recognition they deserve.
Agger knows this better than most.
He has spent hours at Melwood trying to combat the ailments that keep holding him back and, granted some good fortune, Agger will be able to get through to the end of the season with trouble.
Few would begrudge him a change in fortune and if that happens, it is a certainty that he will reach 200 Liverpool appearances in far less time than it took to get to that milestone that was clocked up on a squally night in Bucharest.
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