Steven Gerrard could have left Liverpool on several occasions, most notably when Jose Mourinho and Chelsea came calling very loudly back in the mid-noughties.
To the surprise of many he stayed put. Gerrard’s unerring and infinitely-laudable loyalty to Liverpool must be celebrated, although his decision to finally break his bond with the club he adores could have been timed better.
The fact Gerrard has categorically stated he will not be turning out for a Premier League rival is definitely in the best interests of his boyhood club, just ask Chelsea fans how they feel about Frank Lampard‘s ongoing contribution to their title rivals at Manchester City?
Gerrard is a rare breed, a true legend and hero in every sense of both words, but he may just have overshot the pre-eminent moment to call it quits at Anfield, and that would have been this January.
For the service their skipper has provided, all 695 games worth to date, letting Gerrard walk away for free, is arguably the very least the club can do for him.
However, a player of his magnitude could still have fetched a pretty penny for the drifting 7/1 top-four shots and any payday for Liverpool is surely a good thing in Gerrard’s mind.
The crux of this matter is not financial though, it is purely football related, and cannot be masked by stepping up to take penalties from time to time.
Last season when Liverpool came within a whisker of granting their talisman his biggest dream of the Premier League title, Gerrard’s role was clearly defined.
He was the back four’s protector and self-styled quarterback. Having contributed so much to the campaign, it was no shock to see Gerrard prolong his stay at Anfield into 2014/15.
No one could have predicted the sharp decline though. At 34 the number eight’s legs are finally giving up on him and his influence has diminished to a point where he is actually hindering the development of a fresh Liverpool team.
There have been flashes, but it was telling that during the Reds’ most dynamic performance of the season in the recent 4-1 win over Swansea, the captain was on the bench.
Lucas is a far more mobile and arguably shrewder defensive midfielder, while exciting new signing Emre Can who would prefer to operate there, has been forced into an unfamiliar centre-back role of late.
Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson, Liverpool’s top assister this season, is his natural successor in the middle but is wasted playing at right wing-back.
No one in their right mind will begrudge Gerrard his swansong, but it may be arriving a smidgen too late for Liverpool.
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