Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool legend – this is not up for debate.
The Whiston-born midfield maestro has made over 500 senior appearances for his boyhood club, having joined the Reds as a young child back in 1987.
Although a Premier League title famously eluded him, Gerrard led Liverpool to two FA Cups, three League Cups, the 2001 UEFA Cup and the 2005 Champions League.
His impact on that famous Champions League campaign was immense. He netted what is arguably his best ever goal to drag Liverpool out of the group phase with a 3-1 win over Olympiakos, before also getting on the scoresheet in the final against AC Milan – a game which saw the Reds fight back from 3-0 down to triumph in a penalty shootout.
In recent years, Gerrard’s role has changed a lot. He has gone from being an all-action box-to-box hero to a deep-lying playmaker.
He excelled in the deeper position last season, scoring 13 times and providing 13 assists in 34 league matches, although the campaign ended disastrously when he slipped to gift Chelsea’s Demba Ba a goal which allowed Manchester City back into the title race, just when it seemed that Liverpool were set to become champions of England for the first time since 1990.
Gerrard’s hangover from last season has been all too evident this term. His form has dipped dramatically and his numbers – eight league goals and just one assist illustrate the point clearly.
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There was uproar when the news of his departure to Los Angeles Galaxy was first reported. Former Liverpool boss Phil Thompson was not convinced that manager Brendan Rodgers and other senior club officials had done enough to persuade Gerrard to extend his contract.
“I think they could have done more,” Thompson told The Mirror. “There is nothing in the statement that he was made a great offer or that there was anything in there when he finished playing.”
Rodgers shouldered much of the ‘blame’ for Gerrard’s exit, but hindsight has since proven that the time is right for the once-great player to bow out.
Saturday’s below-par display was a case in point. Gerrard had 66 touches of the ball during a 90-minute appearance in the embarrassing 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace. Although, none of his passes or shots were particularly impressive, many drew sympathetic applause from an emotional Anfield crowd.
This effort was not cheered, however…
The above shambles was hard to watch, but Liverpool fans should take positives from it. After all, it supports the club’s decision to accept Gerrard’s exit without a fight. Now is the correct time for him to move. It is right for all parties.
Had Palace played along, read the script and gifted Gerrard a goodbye penalty, he almost certainly would have smashed it into the roof of the net, leading to desperate cries from Reds fans that he still had it.
But he doesn’t still have it. We all see that now. His whimper of a last Anfield game will allow Rodgers to build for the future, without heckles of ‘if Gerrard was still here…’ getting in the way.
Aside from the actual match, the Gerrard ceremony was a success. He got a great reception from the fans and gave a cute speech.
The best thing for Rodgers to do now is to close the book. Gerrard should not play at Stoke City next weekend.