The English midfielder might be playing for LA Galaxy in the Major League Soccer next season, but the Liverpool exit marks the end of his primetime football association
Steven Gerrard was not quite Paul Scholes, but was very close. The ‘ginger genius’ was exceptional, especially with the ball. Even though Gerrard lacked Scholes’ vision, he had enough qualities to be ranked among the greats in English football. A tally of 494 matches (116 goals) for Liverpool and 114 appearances (21 goals) for England is a testimony to his longevity and greatness.
Not much should be read into this comparison between Gerrard and Scholes. It just spices up the fabled Liverpool-Manchester United rivalry apart from serving up as a starter before the main course. This column intends to celebrate the Anfield legend and his glorious career.
This is not full retirement yet, for Gerrard would be playing for LA Galaxy in the Major League Soccer (MLS) next season. But this is the last leg of a journey that began in 1987. Gerrard graduated to the senior team in 1998; 17 years hence, he has decided to call time on his Liverpool career at the end of the ongoing season. ‘Mr LFC’ is leaving home.
Time flies. Gerrard is now 34 years of age and in the autumn of his career. He remains the heart and soul of Liverpool. Rival clubs tried to lure him out of his base. Chelsea came calling twice—a £32-million bid in 2005 was big enough to test his resolve, but Gerrard stayed put. Loyalty personified.
Scholes says it was a mistake. As per him, a move down south to the Bridge would have taken Gerrard to Premier League glory—the most coveted piece of silverware that’s missing from his glittering CV. “It’s difficult for me, as a United fan, to say it’s a pity that Gerrard has never won the league,” Scholes told The Independent. “If there was a time to leave Liverpool and join another club, he should have gone to Chelsea when they tried to sign him for the second time after he won the Champions League in 2005. It always looked like Chelsea would win the league more than once,” he added.
The United l egend also explained why he played all his football at Old Trafford. “Moving clubs is part of football. I was lucky that my club was strong enough that I could fulfil my ambitions there.”
Gerrard came close to winning Premier League thrice, but the title remained elusive. Representing a club that had been on a steady decline since the early 1990s didn’t help.
Gerrard can still reflect on his Champions League winner’s medal. It was his final at Istanbul in 2005 when he led an amazing fightback against AC Milan. There are nine other trophies in his cabinet, but the Premier League void will be difficult to fill.
After slipping on the home stretch last season, Gerrard was ready to give it a go this term. Without Luis Suarez, his team, however, regressed. This might be one of the reasons for Gerrard’s departure. Form is also a big factor.
Father Time spares none and age was catching up with Gerrard. The infamous fall against Chelsea last season that blew away Liverpool’s chances and a misguided header to allow Suarez to score the winning goal for Uruguay in the World Cup indicated a slump. It became worse during the first few months of the new season when he was looking like a pale shadow of his usual commanding self. Manager Brendan Rodgers dropped him to the bench for Liverpool’s Champions League fixture against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu. It was perhaps the beginning of the end.
Or did Rodgers take a decision to phase out the club’s most high-profile player during close season? He sat mute on a contract extension. Gerrard was wise enough to see the writing on the wall.
“If a contract had been put in front of me pre-season, I would have signed it,” he told Liverpool Echo.
“I’d just retired from England to concentrate all my efforts on Liverpool. I didn’t want my club games to be tailored. My injury record had been fantastic for the past two-and-a-half years and I had a great season from a personal point of view last season.
“It’s all ifs, buts and hindsight now. That period between the summer and the end of November gave me thinking time. There’s no blame and I’m not angry about it. There are other people in the squad and the club had other things to worry about,” he spoke through the pain. The extended farewell will end in May before Gerrard takes a trip down to Los Angeles. MLS is pretty competitive, but compared to Premier League, it’s fun football. A few years down the line, we might see him in the Indian Super League (ISL) as well. But the Liverpool exit marks the end of his primetime football association.
Thanks for the entertainment. Goodbye and good wishes…