It was a cold December night back in 2004 when Rivaldo scored a beautiful free kick just 27 minutes after the first whistle and got every Olympiacos fan screaming their lungs out. The team from Piraeus were playing Liverpool at Anfield and now the Reds were chasing three goals to advance alongside Monaco, but for the time-being the Red-Whites were in. Second half starts, surely nothing bad can happen, right? Wrong!
Just two minutes after the break Florent Sinama Pongolle equalises for his team and at the 80th minute Neil Mellor puts the Reds up front. Anfield was erupting and trying to push their team towards another goal while the Olympiacos fans were telling themselves that there is no way Liverpool can score another one.
And it was then, just four minutes before full time captain Steven Gerrard fires an absolute screamer just outside the box, sends the ball to Antonis Nikopolidis’s bottom left corner and gets everyone at Liverpool on their feet. That was when the Champions League dreams of every single Olympiacos fan ended.
I found it hard to forgive Gerrard after this until a warm May night where Liverpool won the whole thing, in the same fashion pretty much, in arguably the best Champions League final ever.
It has been almost nine years since that cold Anfield night and now the captain is having his testimonial in a few days at the exact same stadium against the exact same team they started this unbelievable journey to Constantinople from.
Now, when I hear the name Steven Gerrard the first word that comes to mind is leader. A captain in football is
someone who wears the arm band whereas a leader is the kind of person that wears the exact same thing on his arm and will never give up on the team even when everything looks lost. When Liverpool were three goals down in the final what did they do? They came back for everything and after Gerrard’s first goal we could all see that nothing was over. The Reds’ leader showed us that there was a lot more left in the tank.
This man was always a true captain that always loved Liverpool, honoured the badge and served as a loyal soldier. He is the captain that will push you even more to run that extra mile, as was proven at the final. He is the skipper that will motivate you in the locker room and explain to you what Hillsborough really means. He is also the kind of captain that you know is genuinely ecstatic once he raises the European Cup in the air, not because of the big fat bonus that is waiting for him but for the fact that it is his team that achieved that.
The 33-year-old has made a total of 630 appearances at Liverpool and scored 159 goals. The midfielder has also had 102 appearances with the England national team and scored a total of 19 goals. During his long time at the team of his heart he has won two FA Cups, three League Cups, two FA Community Shields, one Champions League, one Europa League and two UEFA Super Cups. Therefore, even though Gerrard has never won the Premier League he has seen plenty of success in his career. Every footballer with that kind of record always deserves the admiration and respect of everyone.
Gerrard was always a Liverpool fan which, in my opinion, is very essential for every footballer. Loving the team and growing up as a fan of it is very essential, as you know that that this person is not there for the money or the publicity, he is there because he adores the squad. The midfielder is basically having his childhood dream job as he is the captain of his all time favourite team, gets paid a lot of money to do this, has been adored by many and has won major titles along the way.
Football as we all know is a team sport and Gerrard’s style is adjacent to that word. He is a passer and a shooter, which means he shares the ball around, gives assists and when the time comes he fires a volley to the opposing net. We all love watching amazing dribbling ability on the field as some may say that this is what constitutes impressive football. However, nine out of ten coaches get furious when they watch one of their players hogging the ball. Gerrard is definitely a team player that shows that only a good team wins trophies. In the 2005 Champions League final we saw AC Milan, of Hernan Crespo, Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko, Cafu and Andrea Pirlo, against Liverpool which was a team, not a group of personalities. As that squad’s captain Steven Gerrard played a major role in the formation of that image.
His shot is also brillant. Being able to score long-ranged goals is very important for every team as that means that the respective footballer can score critical goals. This attribute can prove to very essential in Europe and also at Premier League derbies. Gerrard’s long-range screamers have always helped Liverpool and he has been doing that ever since his early years in the first team.
Some footballers fell out with their team’s fans. Notable examples include Michael Owen, Fernando Torres, Carlos Tevez, Ashley Cole and most recent Robin Van Persie. You never know in football, but it looks like Gerrard will never join this group as he has always proven his loyalty to the club inside and outside the pitch. As a youth player he played 11 years for Liverpool and as a professional he has played 15 whole years for the Reds, and no other team. Therefore he joins a more prestige group of footballers, such as Iker Casillas, Francesco Totti and Xavi Hernandez, that have played their entire career in their beloved team. Therefore, he puts the team above anything else and appreciates the fans’ support and love.
In the 2004-2005 season, Olympiacos had a very good team with Dusan Bajevic as their manager, one of the best coaches in Greece, and players such as Nikopolidis, Rivaldo, Giovanni, Predrag Djordjevic, Ieroklis Stoltidis and many more. I do believe in my heart of hearts that Olympiacos deserved more out of that group, where they did finished with 10 points, which included Monaco, La Coruna and the Reds. Plus there was Giannis Okkas’s goal at Louis II that did not count, and if it did Liverpool would have never won the Champions League that year.
Nevertheless, all is forgotten from me and on Saturday August 3 I will be one of the Steven Gerrard fans that will have no problem but to pay my respects to an absolute legend. He is a Liverpool fan that has proven his commitment repeatedly and in my opinion has plenty of more left to prove, such as a Premier League title.