Sunday saw Liverpool captain Gerrard complete his 600th game for the club he has supported since childhood. Whilst this is a phenomenal achievement in itself, it is even more remarkable when you consider in how many of those games Gerrard has been the standout performer and hero in matches of the highest level.
In 2006, Liverpool fans were asked to vote for their all time favourite player in a poll entitled ‘100 players who shook the Kop.’ Gerrard arrived second on the all time list, ahead of the likes of Ian Rush, Graeme Souness, John Barnes and Emlyn Hughes. The only player above him was Kenny Dalglish.
Whilst Gerrard would never agree, a case can be argued forward for him now surpassing King Kenny to be known as Liverpool’s greatest of all time.
True, I am not of the age to have witnessed Kenny Dalglish and those of the great Liverpool teams of the 70’s and 80’s. But in the modern era, it is impossible to think of a player who has done so much at the highest level of the game for a single club.
From a substitute appearance against Everton in the 1998 Merseyside derby it became apparent Liverpool had a special player on their hands. An eighteen year old Gerrard burst onto the pitch, throwing himself into tackles and putting himself about in a manner Graeme Souness would have been proud of. He subsequently made two goal line clearances to preserve Liverpool’s 3-2 lead, and at 18 had made the first of many game winning contributions on the biggest stage for his club.
In 600 games, Gerrard has amassed a total of 151 goals for the club alongside countless assists. He has won the League Cup three times, the FA Cup twice as well as the UEFA Cup, Super Cup and Community Shield on two occasions. And of course he guided Liverpool to their famous Champions League victory in 2005.
But what is the decisive factor for me in believing Gerrard is the best ever, is the fact he has constantly proved to be the man for the big occasion. He has scored in FA Cup, League cup, UEFA cup and Champions League finals, giving him a remarkable total of five goals in eight major final appearances.
The argument against him ever passing Kenny Dalglish, will be the fact Gerrard has yet to pick up a league title winners medal in the way the Scot did so often. The fact it has remained elusive despite coming close on a couple of occasions is Gerrard’s greatest source of frustration. It could be argued Gerrard remains the greatest Premier League player of all time to not have winners medal.
There came a time when Gerrard thought of searching elsewhere for the medal that has eluded him for so long, but his decision to remain loyal to Liverpool throughout his career will forever see him regarded as a club legend.
Dalglish was a star in a team of world class players, whilst Gerrard has been a star alongside mediocre players for a large part of his career, whilst never letting his standards slip and still guiding Liverpool to improbable victories.
The Champions League winning run in 2005 served as the prime example, as Gerrard produced outstanding performances alongside the likes of Josemi, Igor Biscan and Djimi Traore to guide Liverpool to glory.
It is hard to think of a player who has produced such improbable individual moments time and again on such big occasions. Think of his sublime late winner against Olympiacos, and his incredible double against West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup final.
But what will forever be remembered as his greatest moment in a red shirt came on that night in Istanbul. His header to make it 3-1, at the time seemed nothing more than a scant consolation. But his celebration saw him waving his arms madly towards the Liverpool fans in a bid to spark a remarkable comeback. Gerrard was at the centre of it all, putting in a man of the match performance which also saw him win the equalizing penalty on an incredible night which saw Liverpool win the European Cup for a fifth time.
It has not been all glorious for Gerrard over the course of his Anfield career. The last few seasons in particular have been tough as the club have looked to escape and recover from the George Gillette and Tom Hicks era. A couple of dire seasons under Gerard Houllier in 2002/2003 and then 2003/2004 left him questioning his future, but his decision to stay under new manager Rafael Benitez was vindicated.
However Gerrard has shown loyalty and dedication to the cause in a way rarely seen in football. In the 600 games that have passed Gerrard has proven to be a true captain, leader, hero and club legend. Liverpool fans will hope there are at least another 100 games to come.
Do you think Steven Gerrard is Liverpool’s greatest ever player? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood89 and let me know your thoughts.