The definition of ‘world class’ will always differ depending on who you ask, no matter if it’s Alex Ferguson or a supporter from the lower leagues who is far removed from the glitz and glamour of top flight football.
Is it based solely on trophies? If so, has Ronaldo been taken down a peg or two because he’s never won the Champions League? For those who watched him play, he’s an instant favourite; one of the deadliest strikers the game has ever known. Dennis Bergkamp, too, was never able to add the European Cup to his CV, but that doesn’t make him any less of an important name from that era of Dutch football than, say, Clarence Seedorf.
Steven Gerrard has been one of the defining midfield figures of this recent generation. I hesitate to border him in with the term ‘English football,’ because like Paul Scholes, he was and continues to be admired beyond the Premier League. The problem is, and sometimes understandably, you can forget to name check certain players due to their continued absence from the winner’s podium of their domestic league.
Ferguson, rather than put out fires, has apparently caused a stir in the football world. But let’s be honest: we didn’t really expect anything different. Importantly, however, it’s for our entertainment. As I wrote earlier in the week, Ferguson’s revelations will have little impact on Manchester United’s season. He’ll have a story about Wayne Rooney, and he’s obviously offered his opinion on Steven Gerrard, yet it doesn’t change or even reduce Stevie G’s place in the game.
Liverpool have had their limitations and problems over the course of Gerrard’s career; problems that wouldn’t arise or even greatly impede Manchester United’s relentless hoovering up of domestic and European trophies.
Still, Gerrard drove Liverpool on to glory in one of the modern age’s great European Cup finals. In fact, that final in Istanbul has become something of a benchmark. Gerrard had helped to turn a game on its head against one of the finest teams of the past decade, one consisting of Andriy Shevchenko, Hernan Crespo and Kaka as attackers, with Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini as defenders. On the other side of the fence, the only standout names from Liverpool’s side were Jamie Carragher, Gerrard himself and Xabi Alonso.
Maybe Ferguson’s opinion on Gerrard – which most would contest – is fuelled by the fact that the Liverpool captain is one of the names who got away. It’s not only Chelsea who tried and failed to land Gerrard during his prime; Ferguson apparently held the midfielder atop his wish list on multiple occasions. If the backlash from a potential switch to Stamford Bridge was fiery, imagine the repercussions if Liverpool’s standout figure had made the move to Old Trafford.
Gerrard may not have the one club medal that he’s truly deserving of, but he has all the others. Had he moved to Manchester United, or Real Madrid, or Chelsea, he would certainly have picked up that elusive league title. He chose not to, however, specifically stating that he could never play for Manchester United. We shouldn’t forget the importance of that. It can be seen as an equal to Francesco Totti turning down Lazio, or Raul Gonzalez saying no to Barcelona.
Such is the rarity of players like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, and now Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, that you reserve the most uncompromising and highest praise; they’re players who define ages in the game and continue to echo well after they’re gone.
But then you have figures like Gerrard who stand out in their own way as one of the very best from those who are considered mortal. There’s a romance to the one-club player, something that is heightened now with player power, money and agents painting the oncoming horizon.
Gerrard is one who helped to mould the Premier League into what it is now. He’s captained Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in the country, and has taken the armband for his country too.
You don’t need stats, caps, trophies accumulated and whatever else that you can throw onto the heap to measure the talents of footballer; all of that is boring and takes away from the purity of the game. There’s nothing that you can pick out from Gerrard’s career that you can use as a means to dampen his impact on the game or his ability as a footballer.
Is Ferguson right about Gerrard?
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