A Tribute To Liverpool's Jan Molby: Better Than Spurs' Gazza By Miles

Liverpool's Jan Molby, the humongous Dane who speaks with a Scouse accent and was endowed with a deftness of touch unparalleled in the modern game.
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Liverpool's Jan Molby, the humongous Dane who speaks with a Scouse accent and was endowed with a deftness of touch unparalleled in the modern game.

Liverpool's Jan Molby, the humongous Dane who speaks with a Scouse accent and was endowed with a deftness of touch unparalleled in the modern game. Better than TottenhamHotspur's Gascoigne? Not half.

How often do you see a goal better than that scored by a man who knows his way around a doughnut?

Tonight, I want to focus on a player often overlooked when considering greats at Anfield: Jan Molby. I think the English footballing populous has become better informed over the last 5 to 10 years and, I think, if Molby had been playing in that time he would have been appreciated  far more. I trust the England national team wouldn't waste a player as gifted as Hoddle these days and I think we'd all appreciate a player as sumptuous as Molby these days.

There is an argument to say that such players are still overlooked and, like all great artists, only truly appreciated when they are gone. There is an argument to say that Liverpool appreciated how much Xabi Alonso was worth to them when he first pulled on the white shirt of Real Madrid.

That said, we just need to consider that it took Scholes to retire to understand how much people appreciated him. Consider that for all the big-names who eulogised over Scholes that he never won the PFA Player of the Year nor the FWA Player of the Year. (My thoughts on Scholes here)

Molby's colleagues, and his opponents, rated him enormously. Bob Paisley once said he was the most gifted player ever to pull on a Liverpool shirt and spoke about him dominating games as ''though he had it on remote control'. Paisley saw Liverpool at their very finest and he thought Molby was the best.

Liverpool have been lucky over the years to have fine midfielders, and fine passers. Most agree that the best the club has ever had are either Molby or Alonso. Some will say Gerrard (much to the disgust of the blogosphere who overlook his passing ability), others might point to Souness who history has not been kind to. Liverpool legends like Rush, Dalglish and Hansen all gush with praise with how good he was. When we consider the best player of the 1980s how many times do you hear his name? Of course, Maradona was on a different planet but if I were to ask readers to name the best 10 players to play in England in the 1980s would Big Jan feature?

Molby's colleagues, and his opponents, rated him enormously. Bob Paisley once said he was the most gifted player ever to pull on a Liverpool shirt and spoke about him dominating games as ''though he had it on remote control'

As to the best Liverpool passer to me, it has to be Molby. He had a finer range of passing than Alonso - short passes, long passes, defence-splitting passes all off both feet. A man with limited mobility could dominate games and could play just about every ball imaginable. He was the epitome of Liverpool Football Club - pass and move, give and go, always finding space, always finding a red shirt.

Like Scholes, history should have remembered him with awards. In the 1985/86 season, Gary Lineker won the PFA Player of the Year showing that the trend of giving the trophy to the wrong player did not begin with Gareth Bale. Molby shone that season scoring 19 goals in 52 games as Liverpool won the Double. The golden boy of English football took the prize but few would argue that he was a better footballer that year than Molby even if he did - of course - score more goals.

Indeed, Dalglish often employed Molby almost as a third ''quasi-centre-back'' during the early part of games before pusing him forward into central midfield later into games. It is unsurprising that someone played for Ajax could play that role so effortlessly (indeed, he was Haan-esque in many ways). Dalglish has always been a more innovative manager than many give him credit for and this is a very early example of it. His passing lit up the FA Cup Final and he played a telling ball in each of Liverpool's three goals. Molby dominated the game but Rush got the headlines for his two goals.

To find out how highly rated he was, it is telling that Johann Cruyff wanted to sign Molby for Barcelona in 1991. Considering that the Dream Team was just coming into existence at that point built around Koeman, Laudrup, Bakero, Stoichkov, Guardiola and Romario. The deal broke down. If it hadn't, one imagines that Molby would be far more highly rated outside of Merseyside.

One can't help but feel that Molby was born into the wrong era. Midfielders of his type are cherished today. Every club wishes they had one. Moreover, there are no restrictions on foreign players, there are no bans on European football for English clubs, and it is expected that clubs will have many foreign players. All that said Molby loved Liverpool and Liverpool loved Molby.

He is a hero on the Kop and a Liverpool legend - voted 16th in the 100 Players Who Shook The Kop - but one can't help but feel that he could, and perhaps should, have been rather higher than that. Tony Barrett claims he was better than Paul Gascoigne. That is a pub debate but there is certainly a case for it.

This article first appeared on the excellent Left Back in the Changing Room