As Liverpool and Everton reflect on momentous campaigns that will see both halves of Merseyside showcased on the European stage next season, Here Is The City looked at the star performers for Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers' sides over the past nine months.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Dependable, consistent and with 16 clean sheets to his name in the campaign, there was never any doubt that anyone other than the veteran American would stake a claim in between the sticks for a Merseyside XI. Age has not tempered Howard's ambitions; just days after signing a new deal at Goodison Park, he vowed that Everton will be aiming higher than fourth-place next season.
Right-back: Seamus Coleman
Unquestionably Everton's player of the season, Coleman's development has been accelerated under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez. Signed five years ago from League of Ireland outfit Sligo Rovers for the bargain fee of just £60,000, he has been one of the real success stories for the Blues but Martinez's arrival has elevated him to a more potent threat, with seven goals to his name this season, including a last-minute winner against Cardiff City.
Centre-backs: Sylvain Distin and John Stones
When Distin perched himself on an advertising hoarding last summer following a pre-season friendly at Blackburn, he said: "I'm the oldest player, and I've got absolutely no problem with that." While some players approach the twilight years of their career with trepidation, the evergreen Frenchman has embraced his seniority and helped nurture the next generation of defenders at Goodison. That influence was rewarded with a new deal earlier this year which will see him embark on a sixth season at Everton and the 18th of his professioal career.
Snubbed by Martinez at Wigan in favour of a move to the blue half of Merseyside, Stones' work with the current Everton manager was well worth the wait. His 'paneka' penalty in a pre-season friendly with Juventus was merely the tip of the iceberg for the former Barnsley defender, who was hailed by the Spaniard last month as 'the complete modern centre-half'. At 19, place on England's standby list for this summer's World Cup is no less than his mature performances have deserved.
Left-back: Jon Flanagan
Another young gun that could yet find his way into Roy Hodgson's squad for the finals in Brazil, Flanagan's turnaround in fortunes at Anfield has been remarkable. Facing an uncertain future following the arrival of on-loan left-back Aly Cissokho and the continued presence of Jose Enrique, he was handed a lifeline for the 221st Merseyside derby last November and has never looked back. Hailed as the 'Scouse Cafu' by supporters, the former Reds' academy graduate's efforts were also recognised by the Brazil legend himself. High praise indeed.
Central Midfielders: Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and James McCarthy
He remains Liverpool's man for all seasons and, seemingly, all positions - there is not one department that Gerrard hasn't occupied during his 16 seasons in the spotlight at Liverpool. This term he reinvented himself as a competent holding midfielder in Brendan Rodgers' side. His slip against Chelsea that ultimately stemmed the tide of his side's title challenge should not detract from what has been an otherwise phenomenal campaign for the England captain.
Gerrard's positional shift has allowed several of his teammates to take centre stage; not least Coutinho. The winger's range of passing was pivotal to Liverpool's attacking juggernaut and, whisper it, the closest they have possessed since Xabi Alonso's departure five years ago. Alarmingly his performances have been overlooked by Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ahead of this summer's tournament in his homeland.
One Evertonian's creative tribute to McCarthy, in the form of a witty banner, is possibly the finest epitath to his debut season in an Everton shirt - '71% of Earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by James McCarthy'. Only Liverpool counterpart Jordan Henderson comes close to rivalling the midfielder's drive. Rarely wrong-footed, the £13 million capture from Wigan on last summer's transfer deadline day has justified years of hyped potential.
Attacking midfielders: Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling
Barkley drew comparisons with Wayne Rooney, another graduate from Everton's school of excellence, during his formative years but has evolved into a more technical and well-rounded player than the current Manchester United striker. Several of his goals this term would win seasonal awards in their own right but his jinking run and strike against Newcastle, which evoked memories of Paul Gascoigne in his pomp, perfectly encapsulated his qualities.
Like Flanagan, Sterling has been another Anfield academy graduate that has transformed his fortunes on the senior stage. Scoring goals as effectively as he has created them, the hype that surrounded the diminutive winger during his days in the under-18 setup is now starting to be justified after an imperfect start to his Liverpool career saw his every touch unfairly greeted with more anticipation than a John Barnes dribble. If his career continues in this strand, he may be someday mentioned in the same breath as the man hailed as 'Digger'.
Striker: Luis Suarez
From sinner to saint in the space of nine months. Many Liverpool fans were ready to douse effegies of the controversial Uruguayan in lighter fuel after he agitated for a move away, just months after receiving a 10-match ban for inexplicably biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic. But Suarez's spell on the sidelines saw him return more relaxed it showed in his performances. With 31 goals in 33 Premier League appearances, he has enjoyed his best ever season in a Liverpool shirt but the 44,541 that witnessed his remarkable four-goal haul against Norwich last December can consider themselves in a privileged fraternity.
Subs bench: Simon Mignolet, Martin Skrtel, Jordan Henderson, Gareth Barry, Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku, Daniel Sturridge
Do you agree with our selections? Who would have been in your Merseyside XI?
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