The Merseyside derby is one of the oldest and most fiercely competitive rivalries in English football. However, without the presence of countless superstars throughout this fixture’s history, it perhaps wouldn’t be the adrenaline-fuelled, high-octane derby that we still enjoy to this very day.
While Liverpool may have dominated this fixture over the course of the years – especially in the recent times – both the Reds and Everton have fielded some of the best players to have ever graced English and world football.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what a combined XI of the Merseyside derby’s finest would look like…
Not only is Southall easily the greatest goalkeeper Everton have ever had, he’s right up there with some of the best shot-stoppers to have ever played the game. Having been brought to Goodison Park for a measly £150,000 in 1981, the Welsh international would go on to enjoy a 17-year career with the Toffees.
Part of a golden generation of Everton talent, Southall won two league titles and FA Cups, as well as getting his hands on the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1985. Fittingly, he ‘s also the most capped player in Merseyside derby history with 41 appearances, having kept a joint-record 15 clean sheets too.
Honourable Mentions: Ray Clemence (Liverpool)
A decisive figure and scorer in two of the four European Cup finals he won with Liverpool, Neal won a frankly ridiculous amount of silverware on Merseyside. 650 appearances and an 11-year stint at Anfield saw the Englishman carve his name into Reds folklore as comfortably the best right-back the club have ever had.
A no-nonsense defender and a tremendous contributor going forward, Neal’s work ethic and consistency helped him build a formidable reputation at Anfield – even helping him earn 50 England caps along the way.
One of the trailblazers for the modern defender, Hansen was an uncompromising centre-back in his prime – winning everything on offer with Liverpool. His 14-year career with the Reds saw him lift eight league titles, two FA Cups and three European Cups on his way to stardom, still arguably boasting the title of Liverpool’s best ever defender.
His composure on the ball, passing range and ability to drive out of defence set the standard for modern ball-playing defenders, while the Scotsman wasn’t shy of a fierce tackle either.
Honourable Mentions: Ron Yeats (Liverpool), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)
Thriving under Howard Kendall’s tutelage in the 1980s, Ratcliffe provides us with an Everton influence in our back line. The skipper throughout the Toffees’ most successful period in their history, the centre-back is another Welsh legend who helped revolutionise the club – making them one of the most feared opponents in English football.
Enjoying a prosperous 12-year career at Goodison Park, Ratcliffe was a versatile and commanding defender in his heyday who captained the Toffees at just 23 years old.
Honourable Mentions: Emlyn Hughes (Liverpool)
Another Liverpool full-back who forged his reputation at Anfield in European finals, Kennedy scored the winning goal in the 1981 European Cup final, as well as the winning penalty in the shootout in 1984.
A man for the big occasion, the left-back also scored two decisive goals in League Cup finals and such performances saw him enjoy a trophy-laden eight-year career at Anfield.
Honourable Mentions: Ray Wilson (Everton), Steve Nicol (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s record appearance maker, Callaghan won 19 trophies in total with the Reds, as well as lifting the World Cup with England in 1966 – although he didn’t appear in the final. The versatile midfielder is best known for his exploits on the right-hand side and somehow made just four appearances in total for the Three Lions.
In all honesty, there isn’t a great deal of competition for Callaghan in this team, with the 19-year Liverpool player a classy man both on and off the pitch.
Honourable Mentions: Ray Kennedy (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s most loyal servant, Gerrard epitomised exactly what the Merseyside derby is all about. Ferocious, passionate and a consistent game-changer in this fixture, the English midfielder carried the Reds on his back for near enough a decade – helping the club to an unlikely Champions League trophy in 2005.
The Liverpool skipper is arguably the greatest Red of all time and is the fourth-highest scorer in Merseyside derby history. Gerrard was guilty of the odd needless red card in this fixture, but his goals and assists at both Anfield and Goodison were so often pivotal in Liverpool’s dominance on Merseyside.
Honourable Mentions: Peter Reid (Everton)
Despite being better known these days for his long-running and rather peculiar feud with Paul Pogba, Souness was an incredible central midfielder in his prime. His six-year career on Merseyside was littered with silverware and the hardened Scot was one of the founding fathers of football sh*thousery.
Souness later went on to manage the Reds for three years but unfortunately his experience in the dugout was far less fruitful than his days on the pitch.
While he may not have won quite as much silverware as some of his Liverpool counterparts in this team – although he still won a fair amount on Merseyside – Barnes was a magical performer on the left-wing in his day. The agile and powerful winger was a lethal finisher and sensational provider, continuing his dazzling performances for England on the international stage.
A ten-year spell on Merseyside saw him emerge as a huge fan favourite at Anfield and Liverpool fans still reminisce about his sparkling and awe-inspiring performances in a red jersey.
Honourable Mentions: Peter Beardsley (Everton & Liverpool)
It’s rare that a player who played during the 1920s and 30s remains utterly adored by a fanbase nearly a century afterwards. However, Everton’s sharpshooter Dixie Dean has proven that it’s not impossible.
The lethal forward is Everton’s record goalscorer of all time and the second-highest scorer in Merseyside derby history. Dean helped the Toffees to two league titles during his 12-year career and remains one of the club’s greatest ever players.
Honourable Mentions: Robbie Fowler (Liverpool)
Due to his fantastic and untouchable record in the Merseyside derby itself, Ian Rush just gets the nod over Kenny Dalglish. Similarly to Dean for Everton, the Welsh forward is Liverpool’s record goalscorer and also the top scorer of any player in Merseyside derby history – including a brace in the 1989 FA Cup final between the clubs.
Rush has also made the second-most appearances of any player in this fixture and was a constant source of misery for Everton fans throughout his illustrious career at Anfield.
Honourable mentions: Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Graeme Sharp (Everton)