LONDON: One day a parting of the ways for Liverpool and veteran captain Steven Gerrard was inevitable. But his announcement that he will be playing Major League Soccer after his contract expires at the season’s end left more than a hint of mismanagement.
Gerrard said his decision was triggered by a “painful conversation” in which manager Brendan Rodgers said team redevelopment meant he would not be playing as often as he would like.
The example of Frank Lampard’s continuance at Manchester City has illustrated that modern training methods allow a high-class player to extend his career longer than in the past. Liverpool might have offered Gerrard a new, two-year contract last summer and saved everyone the embarrassment of midseason confusion.
Gerrard joined Liverpool when he was eight and remained loyal despite at least two serious efforts by Chelsea to lure him away. If he had taken either then he would surely have collected his one ‘mising’ trophy.
For all his 180 goals in 695 appearances, his dramatic role in the 2005 Champions League recovery to beat Milan, success in the UEFA Cup, FA Cup (twice) and League Cup (three times) Gerrard never once won the Premier League.
To that extent his status in Liverpool’s pantheon will always be compromised – as will his contribution to the national team. Gerrard was outstanding in the famous 5:1 win over Germany in Munich but the last of his 114 internationals (with 21 goals) was the anti-climax of the Brazilian World Cup failure.
Gerrard hopes to return to Liverpool one day, perhaps as a coach. He said: “It’s tough to say goodbye. But hopefully it’s more of a ‘see you soon.’ The key moment was when the manager sat me down and said it was time to manage my games, for me and for the team.
“I’m bright enough to realise it is the right thing for everyone but when you’ve been a mainstay in the team for such a long time, it was it was a painful conversation to have. There have been other things over the last six to 12 months but that was the key.”
Explaining it to his three young daughters had been difficult.
“That’s when the emotion started in the house, that’s when it became tough,” said Gerrard. “At the same time, playing in the United States is exciting – it’s a great opportunity for my family and myself.”
LA Galaxy are favourites though New York Red Bulls are also interested. Red Bulls’ ‘global head of football’ is Frenchman Gerard Houllier who was manager of Liverpool – and Gerrard – in the five-trophy season of 2000-01.
Meanwhile Liverpool are also preparing to move on. Confirmation is imminent of signing their latest England starlet, Raheem Sterling, to a five-year contract extension.