Steven Gerrard: Real Madrid wanted me to force Liverpool transfer - I wasn't prepared to do that
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has hit the headlines in the last few weeks as explosive extracts from his autobiography were released and now he has responded to the fall-out for the first time.
Gerrard’s comments on his relationship with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, his former manager Rafa Benitez and Chelsea chief Jose Mourinho have caused a stir and he has offered up an extensive interview to BT Sport as he answered some of the hot topics he raised:
On being benched for big games
“I didn’t enjoy missing big games. I sat on the bench against Manchester United and Real Madrid and for me, I don’t want people to remember me as a substitute, maybe that’s being a bit selfish but I’ve played for the first team for 17 years and I’ve been a key part of the team, I’ve been a captain since 23 and I still love my football.
"I want to be on the pitch as much as possible. I didn’t really want to become a squad player.”
On being dropped for the Man Utd game last season and then getting sent off after 30 seconds
“The emotions got the better of me on the day, I was just full of anger. Very disappointed in Brendan’s team selection, but instead of being professional and parking it up and thinking about the team. I was very selfish in my performance and in my actions.
"That’s the reason why I came out and apologised straight away. I wasn’t proud of that performance at all, and I think looking back now, that summed up to everyone how hurt I was to be left out of the starting line-up that day.”
On his admiration for Jose Mourinho
“We’re two football people. I think if you park that rivalry aside, the rivalry is done for the time being. I’ve got nothing but admiration for what he’s achieved. Not just at Chelsea when he’s been a rival but at Porto when he went to Inter Milan. He’s had an incredible career.
"And even during the rivalry when you set-up against his teams, they’re very difficult to play against.”
On not signing for Mourinho
"He is one of the best out there and he’s tried to sign me on three occasions, three different teams.
"Even though I haven’t played for him, I’ve had that close relationship with him and I’ve still felt he rates me as a player and even bumping into him when the rivalry’s been going on, he’s given me some good bits of advice and yeah I’m a big fan.”
On Mourinho trying to sign him for Real Madrid
“The Real Madrid interest was real. They wanted me to kick up a war to get out of Liverpool for a certain amount of money, which I weren’t prepared to do.
"I think Real Madrid, when they’re after a player they have the attitude of we’re Real Madrid, you should fight to come to us but my love for Liverpool, I’m not prepared to go to war with Liverpool and plus I was very happy and stable at the time and enjoying my football.”
On Rafa Benitez
“Although we’re not very close and we’ve never been very close Rafa’s certainly the best coach I’ve ever worked with and I’ve got nothing but respect for the man.”
On his role in Liverpool stopping Luis Suarez from joining Arsenal in the summer of 2013
“Before the meeting you had Luis Suarez training on his own in the afternoon. Brendan’s relationship with Luis had broken down. I don’t think it was Brendan’s fault.
"Luis wanted to move on, to play Champions’ League football and he had people in his ear and people around him forcing him to make moves that maybe he didn’t really wanna do. So I think it was just a case of chatting to Luis and saying to him, is it Arsenal that you really want or do you want Real Madrid or Barca? I knew deep down that him and his family wanted Barcelona rather than Arsenal.
"I was prepared to do anything it took to try and make that not happen.”
Ranking his England career
“For me there there’s been maybe two, maybe three England teams that can sit in front of an interviewer and give themselves maybe an 8 or a 9 out of ten mark. One’s 1966 when they won it. Euro 96 of course, they done fantastically well and 1990 when they got to the semi-finals.
I think anyone else has experienced similar patterns to me where you get that build-up going into the tournament, you feel really confident and when you go out, a little bit too early you get that disappointment.”
On Mario Balotelli telling Rodgers he doesn’t mark at corners in training
“If a manager tells you to mark at a corner you mark, simple. You do what the manager tells you to do. That’s Sunday league level. Any level of football, if a manager says to you ‘you’re marking at a corner’ you’re marking.
You don’t come out and say ‘you don’t do that’ because the manager is telling you ‘you are doing it’. So within seconds, he understood that he was marking and he actually did a fantastic job in the game that we’re talking about.”
On Jordan Henderson
“This is someone who works harder than most on a daily basis, he always does his gym work, doesn’t drink, professional. A team player, you know, will sacrifice himself for the team.
"I just hope that he keeps going from strength to strength, becomes a regular for England and does well at the tournaments because I’d love to see nothing better than it work out for him.”
“Watch a BT Sport special --- “Sport In Focus - Steven Gerrard" – on BT Sport 2 next Wednesday 30 September at 10pm. Catch a preview on btsport.com”