Daniel Agger has an important role to play at Liverpool now that Jamie Carragher's retirement is confirmed.
Although Brendan Rodgers aimed to convince the club legend from hanging up his boots at the end of the season, the 35-year-old has called time on a career that saw him join the Reds' youth setup in 1990 (via The Daily Express).
Carragher's performances throughout the 2012-13 season may have surprised many. Rodgers has utilised his veteran defender on 30 occasions this year and continues to favour him over Martin Skrtel after a string of poor performances from the Slovakian (via The Daily Mail).
It's a testimony to Carragher's form that he was picked for games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, all of which saw the Merseysiders emerge with points. Although the power and positioning of Carragher's game is still intact, his decision to join Sky Sports' punditry team indicates his mental battle has just about run its course (via Sky Sports).
The England international will make one final appearance in front of the Kop on May 19. When Carragher's final game against Queens Park Rangers is over, Rodgers faces the difficult task of replacing an individual who has become part of the framework at Anfield.
Rumours continue to suggest the manager is likely to bring in fresh blood. Toulouse defender Aymen Abdennour and Lille's Lucas Digne are two names linked to the club that has enjoyed a successful first season under their new manager (via The Liverpool Echo).
If Rodgers is searching for a new leader, he doesn't have to look far. Sat within the dressing room is a player who will naturally take charge of the defence as things move forward. That man, of course, is Daniel Agger.
Why should Agger be outlined as Carragher's long-term successor? Aside from Steven Gerrard, it's difficult to outline a player who is more committed to Liverpool's cause than the Denmark captain. Having joined the club from Brondby in 2006, Agger has repeatedly reinforced his dedication to the club by ending transfer speculation from teams that could offer him a greater chance at silverware.
Before the start of the 2012-13 season, Agger dismissed the interest of Manchester City (via The Guardian). Recent speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona was also quashed when Agger confirmed he would remain at Liverpool for the entirety of his current contract, which expires in 2016 (via Sky Sports).
Agger will be into this 30s by the time this deal ends and is unlikely to represent such an attractive prospect to clubs who seek a long-term defensive star. Encouragingly for Liverpool fans, the Danish defender has confirmed he is happy to shoulder more responsibility when Carragher's absence takes effect (via The Independent).
It seems Agger's commitment is confirmed, but that is just half the battle. His defensive quality will ultimately decide if he is the man to replace Carragher long term. With Rodgers' rejuvenation process in full swing, it's no coincidence that Liverpool's decent spell of form has coincided with strong individual performances from the powerful defender.
Despite beginning the Premier League campaign with a red card and embarrassing 3-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion, Agger's displays have consistently aided his team's quest for points. Although he only averages one tackle per game (that's less than Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Sebastian Coates), his ability to intercept and win the ball is invaluable.
Often surrounded by the likes of Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly, Agger's leadership skills will also come to fruition with Carragher out of the side. These young players need an example to follow when leading a versatile back four. At this stage, Agger's concentration and insistence on organisation are excellent traits that could be instilled into the mentality of Liverpool's next generation.
At a time when many players are ready to leave their employers if greater financial reward is offered, professionals like Daniel Agger are a rare breed. As long as he continues to show immense commitment to Liverpool, he deserves to be considered the natural heir to Carragher's long-established throne.
With over 209 appearances for Liverpool at the time of writing, Agger joins Gerrard and Pepe Reina as the club's most experienced playing staff. His responsibility on and off the pitch increases with Carragher's decision to call it a day, an observation galvanised by the youthful setup Rodgers has installed at the club.
Although the lure of signing new players may provide an immediate sense of gratification to Liverpool fans, Agger's presence is key in the coming years. Like Carragher, he possesses the natural instinct to lead England's historic club beyond times of distress.
Most tellingly, as rivals circle around Agger's availability, he continues to wear the "YNWA" brand with a battle-ready attitude that is defined by his willingness to represent the Reds in a proud manner.
Is Daniel Agger the long-term successor to Jamie Carragher? Should Liverpool look for a new leader? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.
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