Friday 20 October 2017

New two-year contract for Gerrard

Steven Gerrard is hopeful Liverpool's new signings can have a positive impact
Steven Gerrard is hopeful Liverpool's new signings can have a positive impact

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard has agreed a new two-year deal to keep him at Anfield beyond his 35th birthday.

Negotiations between Gerrard and the Liverpool hierarchy have been continuing since the end of last season and he is expected to pen fresh terms prior to embarking on the club's pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia this week.

Gerrard had one year remaining on his existing deal but manager Brendan Rodgers was determined to remove any doubts about his captain's immediate and long-term future.

Having already lost Jamie Carragher through retirement, it was essential for Rodgers to retain the services of the most iconic and decorated player still on the playing staff.

Gerrard, who recently turned 33, is preparing for his testimonial marking 14 years since his senior debut and the deal confirms that he, like Carragher, will spend his entire career at one club.

His enduring commitment is a much-needed fillip for the Merseyside club amid the lingering uncertainty surrounding Luis Suarez's future.

The club will be eager to find a role for Gerrard once he stops playing, too, but a lengthening of his deal underlines how important he remains as Rodgers seeks to reinstate Liverpool into a Champions League club.

Rodgers spoke regularly last season about the importance of keeping the captain, the Liverpool manager seeing him as indispensable.

"With each day that goes on you see the real importance he still has to the club. He still looks so fit, strong and you can see his influence on the team," Rodgers said last season. "As a captain he's been phenomenal.

"He is a unique player. I can't say that without him we would be all right because I don't believe we would. This is a top, top player who gives so much quality but also enthusiasm."

Having handed Gerrard a new deal, the next priority for Rodgers is adding more recruits as the next five weeks promise to be hectic in the transfer market.

Liverpool still have plenty of money to spend – as shown by the failed £20m bid for Henrikh Mkhitaryan – and will also know a further £40m or more could be coming in if, as seems likely, Suarez and others depart before the start of the season.

The problem for Rodgers is how best to use the resources he has. Mkhitaryan's rejection was unflatteringly symbolic as he confirmed the lack of Champions League football at Anfield was the decisive factor in his choosing Dortmund.

Luring players from Champions League teams is tricky unless, as in the January case of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, they have found themselves out of favour at their clubs.

Eagerness

Rodgers still has not been able to sign the younger centre-half he wanted as a long-term Carragher replacement or an attacking midfielder.

The club will also be planning ahead in the event of a Suarez exit, fully aware the fans will demand that a top-class replacement striker is immediately identified. Suarez, who continues to state his eagerness to leave, is scheduled to rejoin the Liverpool squad next week. He is booked in for a series of commercial engagements in the Far East, as well as resuming training.

However, Liverpool may extend his leave to enable both he and Pepe Reina to miss the Melbourne leg of their tour.

Liverpool began their pre-season schedule with a comfortable 4-0 win against Preston North End on Saturday. Iago Aspas, signed from Celta Vigo for £7m, marked his debut with a goal and an assist.

Coutinho and teenagers Jordan Ibe and Raheem Sterling were the other goalscorers. Ibe (17) who made his first-team debut in the final match of the last campaign at home to QPR, was signed from Wycombe in December 2011 having become their youngest league goalscorer.

Liverpool head off on their pre-season tour in the coming week for matches in Jakarta, Melbourne and Bangkok. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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