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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Immense Carragher inspires Liverpool
By Matt Majendie

Jamie Carragher
At the final whistle at Anfield on Tuesday, there was no doubting the difference between a trip to Istanbul for the Champions League final and a missed opportunity - Jamie Carragher.

The 27-year-old was an unbreakable force in defence, throwing himself into every challenge and marking Didier Drogba out of the game.

It came painfully close to coming off the rails in injury time but Eidur Gudjohnsen's shot went just wide.

Steven Gerrard described Carragher as "immense" and "unbelievable" after the match.

Carragher was equally in awe of his team-mate and must be aware how crucial the win may be to Gerrard staying in the red of Liverpool next season.

Should Gerrard turn down uprooting to the capital, Carragher could prove the deciding factor.

While many were surprised the underdogs had overcome a team 33 points ahead of them in the Premiership, for Carragher it was nothing new.

Born: 28/1/1978
Position: Defender
Club: Liverpool
First-team games: 357
First-team goals: Two
International caps: 17
The Bootle-born stopper has always just gone about his business without much fuss or praise - very much the underdog's underdog.

And even this season, when he has clearly had his best year yet, he is deemed at best England's fourth-best centre back.

Modest to the core, he credits manager Rafael Benitez and the players around him for his improvements.

Benitez deserves at least some credit; while Gerard Houllier often played Carragher in the centre of defence, his new manager has played him there full time.

That decision looks to have given a player certain to be named captain if Gerrard jumps ship great confidence.

He may not quite grab the headlines in the same way Gerrard does, but it is worth noting he was the fans' player of the season last year and must be a strong contender to double up a year on.

I'd never do that
Carragher when asked if he'd leave Liverpool
One fan on the 606 messageboards, appropriately-named Carradona, was in awe of him after Tuesday.

"What an absolute legend, I'm confident we would have conceded three if it wasn't for him," said Carradona. "He is an absolutely brilliant player."

Much of the praise has been of the centre back's new-found maturity.

Even the man himself admitted in a recent interview: "I've moved on from the scallywag I once was and matured a little bit."

That's not to say the humour's gone.

He is set to marry his partner Nicola on 1 July. But when asked if fans could expect to see wedding pictures in a glossy magazine, he quipped: "Nah. I've sold my wedding pictures to The Kop magazine for a pound".

Carragher is Liverpool to the core, the very essence of the city and 100% committed to the club's cause.

While speculation still mounts over Gerrard's future, Carragher is clearly going nowhere.

When asked about a possible move elsewhere, he said simply: "I'd never do that."

Anfield fans can be assured he'll stick to that pledge.

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