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Steven Gerrard: Captain, Leader, Legend?
The end of the 2012/2013 season saw Liverpool lose one of their longest serving players of the modern era in Jamie Carragher following a career that spanned over 700 matches. Unfortunately for Liverpool fans, another testimonial held at Anfield this past week signals the beginning of the end to a career of yet another club legend; Steven Gerrard. Captain of Liverpool and England, Gerrard shows no signs of leaving the beautiful game behind just yet. However, the highly publicized event will provide a gentle reminder to Reds fans that their much-loved leader will not be around forever.
Gerrard has enjoyed a stellar career in which he has won two FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA cup and the Champions League. Although he has achieved so much at the Merseyside club, his trophy cabinet will never be complete. Gerrard has attained numerous 4th, 3rd and 2nd placed finishes, but a league winner’s medal has proved ever elusive. Liverpool have gone close twice with Gerrard as a player. At 20 years old in the 2000/2001 season, players such as Owen, Heskey, Hyypiä and Redknapp surrounded Gerrard but Arsenal ran out comfortable winners with a seven-point lead. The 2008/2009 is the closest Gerrard has ever come with a team that included stars such as Alonso, Mascherano, Reina and Torres. Liverpool amassed 86 points, with the best goal difference in the league whilst losing only two games all season. Unfortunately, Liverpool’s arch rival Manchester United attained 90 points and claimed an 18th league title, equalling Liverpool’s own record.
Gerrard is both highly respected and revered within the game for being one of a dying breed of ‘one club men’. However, It is no secret that Jose Mourinho was extremely interested in the England captain during his first tenure at Chelsea. A £40million British record was touted, and the Liverpool captain was even quoted as saying; "The last six weeks have been the toughest of my life and the decision I have come to has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make, I fully intended to sign a new contract after the Champions League Final but the events of the past five or six weeks have changed all that”. After a conversation with his father, Gerrard decided to stay at the club after all. At the time, Gerrard had won the League cup, FA cup and the UEFA cup. The last remaining trophy was the Premier League Title. Fast-forward eight years and Gerrard is in the same position. Yes, Gerrard has won a further FA Cup and two league cups, but the jewel in his crown remains ever elusive. Had Liverpool been successful in the 2009 season, Gerrard’s decision to stay at the club would have been fully justified.
Without Gerrard, and a last minute wonder goal against West Ham in the 2006 FA cup final, Liverpool would have won two league cups in eight years. For Gerrard, this phase of his career should have provided his greatest period of success whilst at the peak of his powers. However, in the past few years it has felt as though Gerrard has carried a team in a rebuilding phase rather than that of a genuine title challenger. With two to three years left of his Anfield career, it is extremely unlikely that he will achieve the last piece of silverware with the current crop.
In light of Luis Suarez’s desire to leave Liverpool, The reds captain has revealed that he turned down another chance to leave for authentic title contenders, Bayern Munich. Had he left, Gerrard would have no doubt gone on to win the treble with a fantastic all conquering German side. Gerrard is a Liverpool fan, and has been since he was a child. He was brought through the ranks at the Merseyside club and has achieved his dreams of lifting trophies as the captain of his boyhood club. He has been extremely loyal to the club and as a result, has been rewarded with success. But, had he been slightly selfish and looked towards bettering himself rather than the club, I have no doubt that we would look back on Gerrard’s career and talk about numerous league titles and at least one Fifa Ballon d’Or.
In 2009, Zinedine Zidane described Gerrard as “the best footballer in the world”. This came at a time when Cristiano Ronaldo had just scored 42 goals in a season for Manchester United and Lionel Messi was taking over the reigns at Barcelona. His individual talent has seemingly never been in question. As a result, he has been named to the PFA Team of the Year seven times, the UEFA Team of the Year, FIFA World XI three times, named PFA Players' Player of the Year in 2006 and the FWA Footballer of the Year in 2009. Although Gerrard has been unable to cap off an unbelievable professional football career with a league title or international winners medal, the people of Liverpool will revere him for years to come. Gerrard’s career is not yet over, but when it does come to the end, a question will hang over one of the best players of our generation: Given the choice again, would you rather be remembered as a legend at your boyhood club or one of the greatest players the world has ever known.
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