By Suhas BhatFollow @@suhasrbhat
Few players have persevered to the extent that Carragher has.
Over 16 seasons, injuries, new signings, positional changes and new managers have threatened to render him obsolete. But Carragher has walked on, willed by the club anthem perhaps, and become that rare breed - a one-club man who embodies his side's ethos.
While Steven Gerrard has always been Liverpool's leading light, Carragher was the everyman, the deputy and the follower. And even as the Reds strained every sinew in keeping hold of their leader as Real Madrid and Chelsea came knocking with tempting offers, Carragher was the rock that many a manager relied upon.
He even shortened his international career to prolong his club's, such was his unwavering faith in the crest.
"The Liver Bird mauled the three lions in the fight for my loyalties," Carra famously wrote in his autobiography.
Quietly effective, his contributions were rarely trumpeted but were every bit as important as the thunderbolts scored by the mercurial Gerrard.
Born in Bootle, Merseyside, Carragher was actually a boyhood Everton fan but joined the Liverpool youth team in 1990.
His apprenticeship lasted for six years until the 1996 FA Youth Cup final against West Ham, a game that also featured Michael Owen, when the young Reds ran out 4-1 aggregate winners over the two-legged tie.
The careers of both Liverpudlians were underway.
However, even as Owen exploded onto the scene, Carragher had to content himself with a bit-part role for the next few years, often being employed as a right-footed left-back.
Not that it bothered the stoic Englishman.
Recalling those days in a 2010 interview, Carragher remarked, "I never classified myself as a utility player. There was so much competition at Liverpool I was just pleased to be playing, so no, it was never difficult for me. As Gerard Houllier used to say, 'Adapt or die.'"
In the messy marriage that was Roy Evans and Houllier's stewardship of the club, the defender was one of the few players who wasn't part of the collateral damage.
His adaptability in getting along with both factions proved to be an asset and Houllier deployed him variously as a midfielder, right-back, left-back and then finally in his favourite position in the heart of defence, alongside Stephane Henchoz, in the 2000-01 treble-winning season.
Carragher has been involved in more clean sheets, 191, than any other defender in Premier League history.
A classic rather than a classy defender, Carragher's approach to defending was akin to that of a no-holds barred boxer.
When Sami Hyypia arrived at Anfield in 1999 the Red had a fearsome partnership in the centre of defence with the Finn's aerial prowess and Carragher's positional awareness.
Apart from problems in the air, the Englishman was not the best passer of the ball, even though he did improve significantly over the next two seasons. In a bid to right that, new manager Rafael Benitez tried to coax Roberto Ayala to join him in Merseyside.
Had that transfer materialised, Carragher would have been pushed into the shadows and the history of Liverpool football club might have read very differently.
As it happened Carragher and Hyypia proved crucial as the Reds lifted the European Cup after a wait of over two decades. In six matches against powerhouses Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea, Liverpool conceded a mere four goals thanks largely to their magnificent defensive shield.
Now, cast your mind back to Istanbul. The final. You thoughts might descend upon Vladimir Smicer starting the comeback. Or they'll hark back to Gerrard and the inspirational part he played. You may even ruminate on the fateful Andriy Shevchenko penalty that handed the trophy to Benitez's men.
And yet, it was Carragher who personified the Liverpool team spirit that night and cemented his status as a club legend by battling against Shevchenko and Kaka - both at the peak of their considerable powers.
The defender even suffered cramps in extra time with the agony visible to everyone watching but he just would not give up.
"Those additional 30 minutes were the most tense, strenuous and, ultimately, rewarding I've ever spent on a football pitch," Carragher told the club website.
"At the end of my career, if there's one period of play I believe I'll be remembered for, it was this. During the second period of extra time I stretched to intercept a cross [from Kaka] and my leg cramped. Even breaking my leg didn't hurt as much. It was brief and it was instantly treatable, but I knew my body was weakening.
"As I stretched my leg, it seemed as though the whole world was wincing on my behalf, appreciating the physical torment I was enduring. I hadn't thought twice about throwing my body in the way, whatever grief it was going to cause me for a few seconds was nothing compared to how I'd have felt had I hesitated and watched him [Shevchenko] score.
"Courage, character, grit, willpower and raw strength - these are the virtues people have installed into me since I was seven years old.
"The strikers can have their winning goals, the goalkeepers their career-defining saves. A series of lunging tackles on a Milan strike force will be my fondest personal memories of a life in football."
And after the final penalty was saved by Jerzy Dudek, all the exhaustion was replaced by unbridled joy.
It was, sadly, also the high point of his career as over the next few years, he slipped down the pecking order with the emergence of a new defensive partnership in Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel.
Characteristically, there have been few complaints from the veteran. And when current manager Brendan Rodgers opted to call upon him ahead of Skrtel for the crucial matches against Arsenal and Manchester City recently, Carragher rolled back the years with two rock-solid performances.
Having been at the beck and call of his club for so long, Carra has finally put himself first. After 16 years of selfless service, Liverpool's most famous no. 23 has earned that.