Why Gerrard Should Have Left Liverpool A Decade Ago...And Gone To Chelsea
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Liverpool's game against Crystal Palace this Saturday marks Steven Gerrard's last competitive outing at Anfield before he jets into LA to join the Barclays Premier League Retirement Community. Or MLS, as it's more commonly known.
It will be an emotionally charged affair on Merseyside, of that there is no doubt. With little else to play for, Gerrard can expect the sort of saccharine love-in that Anfield is making its own. Perhaps all 11 players will come out wearing the no. 8 on their backs, a Steven Gerrard mask on their faces and start spraying 60-yard Hollywood passes at every opportunity. Maybe the fans lucky enough to be inside Anfield (tickets are trading at north of $2,000) will sing his name until the go hoarse, or organise for the "Brendan Out" plane to fly a 90ft likeness of the great man over the skies of Liverpool.
Whatever Anfield has in store for Gerrard this weekend, we hope our Stevie thinks it was all worthwhile. "It", in his case, being a decade's worth of underachievement and a trophy cabinet so bare it would make you agoraphobic.
10 years ago, having led his boyhood club to Champions League glory in Istanbul, Gerrard handed in a transfer request. He wanted to join Jose Mourinho's Chelsea Mk1, who had just won the Premier League by 12 points.
There's no secret to why Gerrard wanted to leave. Liverpool had just finished 37 points off the pace in the league, having finished 30 adrift the season before. As former Liverpool Chairman Rick Parry told the BBC at the time, "He wanted success, and presumably felt he would get success elsewhere." No, what's baffling is the mawkishness which forced him to stay: within 24 hours of handing in his request, Gerrard flip-flopped, telling Parry he no longer wanted out of Anfield. The rest is history.
So as Liverpool's No. 8 - one of the finest midfielders in Europe for much of the 21st century to-date - steps out onto the Anfield grass one last time this weekend, we wonder whether thoughts of what could have been might run through his mind. This, at least, is what runs through ours:
Steven Gerrard's Trophy Cabinet, 2005/06 - 2014/15: 1 x FA Cup, 1 x League Cup
Chelsea's Trophy Cabinet, 2005/06 - 2014/15: 3 x Premier Leagues, 4 x FA Cups, 2 x League Cups, 1 x Champions League, 1 x Europa League
In the modern era of mercenary footballers, where loyalty is a dirty word and success is too often judged by the wheels you roll or the bars you frequent, Gerrard is indeed that rarest of breeds at the elite level: the one-club professional. But he's come to embody all that is wrong with Liverpool FC over the last 20 years; a stuck-in-the-past club confusing sentimentality for success.
Gerrard should have sucked it up a decade ago and made the move his God-given talents deserved. Instead, his career will be defined by a solitary slip and 10 years' worth of what-ifs.