When the news broke that Steven Gerrard had decided not to renew his contract and leave his boyhood club after 17 years, the fans struggled to come terms with the shock. It’s inconceivable that the Liverpool captain will wear another club’s jersey, and that the number 8 shirt at Anfield will we donned by someone apart from the Whiston-born midfielder.
After being pursued by the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich as well as Inter Milan, Gerrard finally made the heart-wrenching decision to pluck his roots from Merseyside and settle abroad, for a couple of years at most. He had stuck with the club through thick and thin. Unfortunately, he found that the club weren’t desperate to stick with him when the time came, and took far too long to offer him a new contract.
Having watched him for the best part of two decades in the starting eleven week in week out, one cannot fathom how heartbreaking it would be when he last plays for the club at the Britannia Stadium. Or how emotional an evening it would be at Anfield when Crystal Palace are the visitors on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League and the Kop End will be adorned with a huge mosaic to give him his farwell. Here are the five stages of losing Steven George Gerrard.
When Gerrard declared that he would leave the club, one would have been forgiven for thinking that a time will come when Gerrard takes a U-turn, not for the first time, and decide to stay with the club and sign a new deal before the end of the season. How could he not lead his club for another season and beyond, having been the club captain since the young age of 23? How can a 26-year association with Liverpool end in the summer. Maybe he realised that he won’t ever come close to winning the only thing he hasn’t in his illustrious career, but he would stick with Liverpool once more. He wouldn’t leave, not with the club recovering after a horrible start to the season. Like Jamie Carragher, he won’t leave and retire at the club he loved, with the fans who worshipped him, and as a one club man.
He can’t possibly leave, though. Who will lift the next trophy Liverpool wins when he is not with the club?
Champions League win over AC Milan in 2005.
Gerrard took international retirement just five months before announcing his decision to leave Liverpool. The prime motive for the latter was to preserve his ageing body and be available for every minute at his club for the next two to three years according to the player himself. Why then did the management wait more than five months since that decision, and what was going through their minds as the time flew by? As Carragher noted in his Daily Mail column, Gerrard needed reassurances about his ability and importance to the club, something which he wasn’t offered in the ensuing months.
He was terrified at being offered the role of a squad player when he so desperately wants to start and finish each and every game. While it may not have been physically possible, Liverpool’s hierarchy could have surely done much more to make the player who got selected for the PFA Team of the Year a record eight times stay.
Who will rescue Liverpool with a swing of their gifted right boot once Gerrard is gone?
Oh you beauty!
We know the name son!
Though Gerrard will leave the club after the end of the season, the player himself raised the possibility of returning next winter on loan during the off season in the States. He admitted that he would be interested in returning to train at Melwood, and perhaps playing as well as Frank Lampard is currently playing for Manchester City.
As it is accurately said, the true worth of a person is only felt after he is gone. Steven Gerrard will leave Liverpool, that is the harsh reality of it. It will only strike with full force at the end of the season. But what the fans wouldn’t give to have him back wearing the famous Red jersey again? What wouldn’t they give to have the source of countless moments of inspiration back?
He will drag the team by the sheer force of will one last time.
Rallying the troops time and time again
Liverpool will not only be losing their icon, their legend and their talisman. They will also be losing a major attractive force which potential transfers will look for in their new club. His departure will have huge ramifications both on and off the field. His name is synonymous with the club, and they will be without a symbol for the first time in a very long while. His shirt was found to be the second most popular since the inception of the Premier League a couple of years back, and it may take a number of years for a player of his level to grace Anfield.
Liverpool won’t be able to replace him; there is not even a debate on that. In fact, such a technically sound and intelligent player who was vastly superior to his teammates during his prime and had a knack of changing his team’s fortunes with his sheer will power can be impossible to replace.
The captaincy will be handed over, most likely Jordan Henderson, but who will replace his influence at the club? Who will the fans idolise with intense fervour? Who will the teammates look up at in times of crisis? Who will replace Liverpool’s top scorer in Merseyside derbies in the Premier League? Who will replace the player with the most chances created in the Premier League since 2003? Who will rise from the youth ranks to lift the Champions League trophy in a final that was lost beyond any doubt at half-time?
Nobody. We will never have moments like this again.
Golazo against Manchester United
Golazo against Newcastle United
When the dust has settled, one comes to terms with his decision. As Liverpool’s struggled in the first half of the season, a large faction of supporters were voicing their displeasure of their captain starting too many games than his weary legs allowed. It would be mildly surprising to note that the skipper has started 18 of the 21 Premier League games so far this season while also playing five of the six group stage games. Last season’s fitness levels were an anomaly because of the lack of involvement in European competitions as well as getting knocked out of the two domestic cup competitions. His performances therefore started dipping, and their best home performance of the season came with him failing to make the pitch for the only time this season. Perhaps that was the tipping point, perhaps it was already coming. Perhaps he wanted to announce it at the turn of the year. He wanted to ‘die a hero’, rather than ‘living long enough to see himself becoming the villain.’
He deserves a chance to go out into the sunset on his own terms, and enjoying his football without any pressure, something which he wasn’t allowed at Merseyside. He seemed to always be burdened by the expectations of his team, his manager and the city.
The midfielder will finish his Anfield career having made the third most appearances behind Ian Callaghan and Carragher. He will also leave in all likelihood having scored the two goals required to climb above Robbie Fowler’s 183 into 5th position in the all time list.
He remains the only player in football history to have scored in all major cup finals for one club: League Cup final, UEFA Cup final, FA Cup final and European Cup final. In an age when the top players usually don’t stick around for too long a period, that record is set to stay.
Lastly, an ode to Gerrard, who is best summed up by Craig Bellamy in his autobiography.
“What makes him so good? Well, there is nothing he can’t do. He is clever. He sees the game quicker than anyone else. He sees the picture. He can play the ball first time round corners that aren’t even there. He has got intelligence. He has got physical attributes. He can bomb past people. He is quick. He is a proper, powerful athlete. Give him a header, he will score. He can play behind the front man. He can get the ball off the back four and control the game from the quarterback position. He is just an immense all-round footballer. I have never seen anyone put it all together like him, never seen someone with so many qualities. I have played with a lot of talented players, but he was better than any of them.”
Let’s cherish the moments we will always remember when we think about Steven Gerrard — the man who will always remain the greatest Liverpool player of his generation, by a distance.
‘That’ volley at Anfield.
‘That’ kiss of the Camera.