Steven Gerrard lost out to Frank Lampard's Chelsea on Sunday, but Rafael Benitez would not swap him for the Blues star.
The 2-0 defeat left Liverpool trailing Chelsea by a massive 21-point margin and although England midfielder Gerrard came off second best to his international colleague Lampard, Benitez still considers he has the best player out of the two.
"The key player for us has been Gerrard," he said.
"Our foreign players have settled really well but Gerrard is playing at a very good level. You have to remember he was injured for three months last season but now he's a real success.
"He's grown up but he can also improve. That is the positive thing for me. You can work with him and he can learn and go forward even more. If they say the best player in the world is Steven Gerrard then it is true."
Gerrard's Liverpool and England team-mate Jamie Carragher echoed the views of his manager - claiming that Gerrard has been performing consistently at the highest level for much longer that Lampard.
Carragher said: "As far as I am concerned, Steven is the best player in the world today. I wouldn't swap him for anyone, even Ronaldinho. Jose Mourinho will always say Frank Lampard is the best and Frank Rijkaard will say it is Ronaldinho.
"But I've seen enough of the top players. I don't see anyone with the all-round game he's got. The difference between him and the others is he's world class in so many positions.
"He's the best central midfielder in the Premiership and the best right midfielder too. If he was playing in the holding role every week, he'd do that just as well as Claude Makelele, who everyone sees as the best around.
"Lampard has been fantastic for the last two or three years, but Stevie has been like that since he came into our side six years ago."
Liverpool's clash with Chelsea was the first game in a punishing 36-day spell of 10 critical matches.
With the late inclusion of their one last game in hand - the rearranged trip to Charlton - now confirmed for Wednesday, the next month will test Benitez's side to the limit.
Liverpool now face Charlton, then Arsenal and Benfica twice, plus an FA Cup tie with Manchester United as well as tricky games with Wigan, the return with Charlton and then Manchester City before March 12.
Benitez added: "I said to the players after the game 'get your heads up'. It's a long race.
"Chelsea are at the top of the table and when you play at Stamford Bridge and put them under pressure, it means you have done some things right."