Thursday 21 November 2019

Comment: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard was Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and David Beckham in one

Steven Beacom

Steven Gerrard will wave farewell to Anfield on Saturday. There won't be a dry eye in the house as Liverpool fans pay homage to their captain... their hero... their Kop idol.

It's impossible to overstate the depth of feeling Liverpool supporters have for the Scouser in the number eight shirt.

He's revered, respected, loved and admired in equal measure. Up there on the same pedestal as Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalglish.

In part that is due to the relative lack of success the club has had over the past 25 years compared with the endless glory of the previous 25.

Shankly and Dalglish were involved with awesome Liverpool sides. Gerrard has often had to cope with the average to the awful, but amid the gloom he shone like a beacon.

He was the one bringing hope to Liverpool hearts, when all seemed lost.

Read more: Is Steven Gerrard included in Liverpool's all-time XI

And 17 years on from his debut, he's still the player most likely to put on a cape and rescue the team, as he showed last weekend at Chelsea.

No wonder Liverpool fans are concerned. Many see it as the end of an aura and want to know who will lift the side in the future with Stevie G no longer around.

Only time will tell. What is certain is that in the early months of next season, with Brendan Rodgers facing the most testing time of his Anfield managerial career, he will do so without the player he could rely on most.

In his office at Liverpool's training ground three years ago, Brendan, just a few months into the job, told me Gerrard was 'the ultimate footballer'.

In that same office this season the Irishman took the bold decision to inform the midfielder that next term his game time would be limited.

With that and the lack of a suitable contract offer on the table, Gerrard decided the moment had come to move on.

He will see out his playing days with Los Angeles Galaxy in America's MLS - a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio doing a couple of seasons of Christmas panto - with the change of scenery giving him the opportunity to take a massive weight off his shoulders.

Gerrard, 35 at the end of the month, has carried Liverpool FC for long enough.

There will be sadness that his dream of playing for the Reds will be over, but a touch of relief as well to get out of the Merseyside goldfish bowl and swim in fresher water.

He's earned it. Of course Gerrard has made mistakes, but no player could have given more for the Liverpool cause, staying even when Jose Mourinho tried to tempt him away.

Understandably the debate on where Gerrard ranks as a footballer has begun. He should go down as a great. I'd go further... I believe he is Liverpool's greatest, ahead of King Kenny himself.

In terms of the top modern day Premier League midfielders, Gerrard is in the conversation alongside Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Patrick Vieira.

It's worth noting over his entire Liverpool career Gerrard played with a handful of world class stars. The other four teamed up with that number virtually every week.

Keane, Scholes, Lampard and Vieira were outstanding at different things. Gerrard, at his best, was outstanding at everything; scoring goals from inside and outside the box, passing, tackling, heading, defending and he was as accurate at crossing and as dangerous from set-pieces as David Beckham.

Man United fans may disagree but in many ways Gerrard was like Keane, Scholes and Becks rolled into one.

He didn't win a league title but other greats could say the same. What Gerrard did was inspire the best comeback in European Cup final history, win an FA Cup final on his own, scoring in both, net in Uefa Cup and League Cup finals and he played the way you would yourself for your team if given the chance.

While his final game is scheduled to be at Stoke next Sunday, a fitting end would be for Gerrard to hit the winner at the Kop end against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Don't rule it out. The same goes for a return to Anfield as manager one day.

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