Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will leave the club he has played for throughout his career and move to a foreign team at the end of the season, the English Premier League club said on Friday.
Gerrard, 34, has made 695 appearance and scored 180 goals for Liverpool after joining the club as an eight-year-old schoolboy.
“I’m going to carry on playing,” Gerrard said in a statement on the club website.
“Although I can’t confirm at this stage where that will be, I can say it will be somewhere that means I won’t be playing for a competing club and will not therefore be lining up against Liverpool — that is something I could never contemplate,” he added.
Reds captain Gerrard’s Anfield future has been the subject of speculation for several months and he is believed to have decided to continue his career overseas when his contract expires in the close season.
The 34-year-old midfielder, who scored two penalties in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Leicester at Anfield, has already been linked with a move to MLS franchise LA Galaxy and a Daily Express report says he is poised to go public on his plans later Friday to avoid speculation over his future becoming a distraction during the rest of the season.
Clubs from the Middle East will also express interest in Gerrard according to the report, with the former England skipper free to speak to foreign sides since the first minute of the new year.
His greatest moment in a Liverpool shirt was when he helped to inspire their dramatic comeback win over AC Milan in the Champions League final in 2005.
However, he suffered disappointment last May when Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title. They faltered late in the campaign when they appeared poised to become English champions for the first time since 1990.
“My decision is completely based on my wish to experience something different in my career and life and I also want to make sure that I have no regrets when my playing career is eventually over,” added Gerrard.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers paid tribute to his captain’s contribution to the club.
“It is almost an impossible task to find the words to appropriately sum up Steven Gerrard and his importance to Liverpool,” Rodgers said.
“This is an era where the word ‘legend’ is vastly overused, but in his case it actually doesn’t do him justice.”
Former Liverpool teammate Jamie Carragher described Steven Gerrard’s decision as a “sad day”.
“Sad day for Lfc & English football with the Gerrard news, I think it’s the right decision all things considered,” tweeted Carragher, who himself made 737 appearances for Liverpool.
Sad day for Lfc & English football with the Gerrard news, I think it’s the right decision all things considered.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) January 1, 2015
He added: “Leaving or retiring is a great confidence booster, this morning my timeline was full of “whys Gerrard starting” now it’s “Gerrard best ever”.
Leaving or retiring is a great confidence booster, this morning my timeline was full of “whys Gerrard starting” now it’s “Gerrard best ever”
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) January 1, 2015
Gerrard’s announcement that he plans to leave his boyhood team, the only club he has played for in his professional career, will come as a huge blow to many Liverpool supporters who anticipated he would extend his contract by at least another year.
Liverpool offered Gerrard a new deal in November, but it is said he has decided the time is right to move on at the end of the campaign.
Gerrard joined Liverpool as an eight-year-old and has made 695 first-team appearances, scoring 180 goals.
His greatest moment came when he scored in the Champions League final in 2005 and inspired Liverpool to come from 3-0 down at half-time against AC Milan and win the trophy on penalties.
But his hopes of winning the Premier League are likely to remain unfulfilled after Liverpool came up agonisingly short last season and lost out to Manchester City.
Gerrard returned to the starting line up for Thursday’s draw with Leicester after being rested for Monday’s win over Swansea.
But, with his performances below his previous high standards for much of this season, the prospect of being a substitute in more matches next season as manager Brendan Rodgers manages his fitness has helped shape his decision to quit Anfield.
The Express report said Gerrard, who famously turned down two moves to Chelsea, will not play for another club in England out of respect for Liverpool.
Gerrard made his debut in 1998, coming on as a substitute in a game against Blackburn Rovers.
His club trophy haul includes the Champions League, UEFA Cup, two FA Cups, three League Cups, one Community Shield and two UEFA Super Cups.
Gerrard was capped 114 times by England, having made his international debut in 2000, but he retired from international football after last year’s World Cup where England exited in the first round.
Former England star Gary Lineker tweeted that the Anfield giants owed Gerrard a huge debt for his loyalty and his performances.
Seems Steven Gerrard is set to leave Liverpool at the end of the season. One of the finest players to have graced the PL. A top, top player.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 1, 2015
“So that’s it then, Gerrard is going. What a player he has been for Liverpool. Dragged teams to levels they’d never have reached without him,” said Lineker.
Gerrard’s impending announcement came after Rodgers rued the defensive mistakes which he said were hampering his side’s attempts to build momentum in the English Premier League following the draw with Leicester.
The Reds had a 2-0 lead at half-time thanks to two penalties from Gerrard.
“They were two great penalties by Stevie, who showed great composure,” said Rodgers.
However, goals from David Nugent and Jeffrey Schlupp ensured the Foxes collected a share of the points as they hit back in the second half.
It left Liverpool seven points adrift of fourth place and Rodgers lamenting the need for his side to tighten up at the back.
“We are disappointed at being 2-0 up and conceding the goals that we did, poor goals and giving away the ball so cheaply,” Rodgers said.
“We have seven out of nine points, we should have more, at 2-0 even playing as poorly as we did. We should have closed that out and it cost us.
“I think we have to do better on the edge of the box. The shots come in too easy, and we have to be stronger and aggressive.
“We talked about it. We had a plan in place in terms of after the opponent scores or after we score, the five minute spell, the idea of what to do and how to work that but we didn’t do it.”