Daniel Agger’s eight-and-a-half years at Liverpool cemented his status as a club hero. He was outspoken, loyal to a fault, and had killer games when he wasn’t injured. There was also that time he elbowed Fernando Torres in the face after Torres had moved to Chelsea.1 The city adopted him just as swiftly as he became a Scouser. But although he Liverpool tattooed on his person, Liverpool (the club, not the fans), it seemed, couldn’t care less.2
A legion of fans, myself among them, were righteously angry at the fact that he kept getting benched when he was clearly necessary on the pitch. Unfortunately, a number of managers disagreed about Agger’s role on the team, and his regular bouts of injuries did not help. He missed roughly as many games as he ended up playing. His worst period at Liverpool was probably under Roy Hodgson. Our intrepid hero recently said that the period under Hodgson made him “completely lose [his] desire to come to work.” And yet he did.
Putting aside the entire time under Hodgson 3, trophies have been hard to come by in recent years, and several players who joined the team at the same time as Agger left for sparklier pastures. Agger, on the other hand, got ‘Y.N.W.A’ tattooed on his knuckles. When Agger finally left Liverpool, the club remained a part of him – and he never let the fans forget it.
I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about Daniel Agger. His career is, in essence, an ode to the principles fans crave in their sports idols. While Liverpool fans have (rightly) raised him to cult hero status, Brondby fans (and all of Denmark) has had reason to elevate him higher. In the seasons since Agger left Brondby for Liverpool, the club had almost been relegated and had gone bankrupt. They were not likely to win any trophies any time soon when Agger made the decision to return. He made it clear to his fans, both in Liverpool and in Brondby, that money was unimportant. The only thing that mattered was playing the football he loved at a club that he loved.4
Liverpool fans still gather together to lament the loss of one of the finer 5 defenders Anfield has seen in recent years. Invariably, these laments will end in weeping statements about how Agger deserves to be thanked for his service. Unwrapping what exactly that service was is difficult, though. His last couple of seasons were patchy, and his relationship with Brendan Rodgers deteriorated rapidly when, as he put it, he went “from being first choice and the club’s new vice-captain to being fourth choice centre-back.”
When it comes to quantifying the service that Agger provided, it seems fans are more in awe, and more grateful for, the respect Agger had, and continues to have, for his clubs. Agger’s relationship with both Liverpool and Brondby embodied the mottos of the team. Liverpool’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is remarkably close to Brondby’s “No one above the club,” 6 and that respect for the club and the place and people that it’s rooted is something he seems to shine with.
Agger’s easy adoption of everything Liverpool was also a beacon for those of us who hadn’t grown up on the side of the Mersey. His pride in, and loyalty to, the team were never questioned. Watching a foreigner joyously adopt (and in turn be adopted by) the club made the club seem that much more accessible.
When he called it quits last June, Agger ended his career where he began: in Brondby.
There’s a lot of talk about how loyalty has become a rare breed in modern footballers, but that’s not necessarily true.7 There are players who have stuck with teams through thick and thin: Paolo Maldini is synonymous with Milan, Jose Fonte saw the Saints from the bottom to the top, Iker Casillas’ treatment at Real Madrid was particularly painful because of his history at the club. And that’s not even looking at players like Jamie Carragher, who retired never having worn another jersey.
Daniel Agger wasn’t a one-club man, but every deliberate choice he made through his career was driven by a desire to do right by himself, his family, and the clubs that he loves. It’s the fact that he lives by those principles that made Agger an incredible footballer, and make his service to both Liverpool and Brondby unforgettable.
1 – Here’s the verbal assault he laid on Torres instead, because we shouldn’t condone violence.
2 – Barring getting “Agger” etched onto a stand, the least the club could do was reward his loyalty with a few more games.
3 – Please, could we?
4 – Fun fact: he also owns a pub in Hvidovre, and has opened a local sewer company called KloAgger (a namesquish of ‘kloak’, the Danish word for sewer, and his last name). You should read this entire piece about what he means to Brondby
5 – I can be objective.
6 – The literal translation of this is “No one above the community”
7 – This isn’t even touching the entire debate of why we ask sports players to be loyal to their employers, when we don’t require that of any other profession.