Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard makes right call on leaving club

The Gerrard question, as it had become, needed to be addressed at some point, and the man himself has saved his manager a major headache, writes Ali Khaled.

Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, who will leave the club at the end of the season, gestures as he leaves training on Friday. Andrew Yates / Reuters
Powered by automated translation

On Thursday night, as Liverpool struggled to a 2-2 draw with Leicester City at home, irate fans took to Twitter.

They were keen to point out just why the return to the team of Steven Gerrard, who had scored two penalties, was the main reason behind the team’s sluggish display.

It was time for Brendan Rodgers to be brave and drop his captain; Gerrard was finished at Liverpool.

They were right, but not in any way they intended.

A few hours later, the tone had changed. The rumours that the 35-year-old captain was quitting Anfield turned out to be more than just that. The tributes began to pour in, some resembling eulogies at a wake.

They need not have been.

Gerrard’s decision is undoubtedly the correct one. And, as ever, he did right by his team as well.

The Gerrard question, as it had become, needed to be addressed at some point, and the man himself has saved his manager a major headache. The hardest decision of his life, Gerrard called it. In truth, it was probably easier than that.

Gerrard has looked haunted since last season’s title near-miss, one for which he wrongly blames himself. This season, he has looked a shadow of the re-energised, driven player of last term.

Liverpool’s 2014/15 title bid is long dead, and they have been knocked out of the Uefa Champions League. In pragmatic terms, giving it one more go in 2015/16, at Gerrard’s age, is unrealistic.

He has nothing left to chase. His list of achievements is long, spectacular and well-documented. His critics have but one stick to beat him with; the failure to win a Premier League medal.

But even when missing out on the championship he craved the most, there remained a sense of nobility, of defiance even, that – despite the ill-advised flirtation with Chelsea 10 years ago – Gerrard never left to seek the title elsewhere.

His almost quixotic pursuit of the Premier League has its own glory, in the same way that Don Bradman’s career batting average of 99.94 has its own sense of perfection to it.

Gerrard is great because he fell short trying, not in spite of it.

Whatever they may claim publicly, the likes of Michael Owen and Fernando Torres must surely concede in private that the medals won at Manchester United and Chelsea mean far less than what Gerrard achieved at Liverpool.

Some of the younger fans, or those with selective memories, will remember only the older Gerrard. Still influential, yet necessarily playing a more measured, less-heroic role brought about by years of pushing his body through season after season in the most physically punishing league in the world.

But some of us will remember the young, combative No 17 who could play anywhere on the pitch and often ­– unlike previous Liverpool greats such as Kenny Dalglish or John Barnes – carried poor teams through some dismal times.

The man who matured to be the all-action No 8, the leader the world came to know. The only man to score in the Champions League, Uefa, FA and League Cups. The hero of Istanbul in 2005 and Cardiff in 2006.

He could equally do it in the bread-and-butter games. For Gerrard, mundane league matches were treated like European nights, and fans loved him for it. Just type “Gerrard Middlesbrough” in YouTube and marvel at his genius.

Will he now follow Frank Lampard to Major League Soccer? Or play in India? Perhaps there is one last hurrah in Europe?

In the end, Gerrard for once did what was best for himself. Few Liverpool fans will begrudge him that decision. And they should remember the skipper’s own words – we go again.

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE