Steven Gerrard has been, arguably, the best English player of his generation. In his peak, the midfielder was unstoppable. He could change games on his own, score unbelievable goals and was the reason Liverpool did not slide into midtable obscurity during the difficult years of the early/mid 2000s.
But the prospect of the Reds without their iconic captain is really a reality now, with contract negotiations between the player and the club stalling. Should he not agree a new deal, Gerrard will be free to join any side on the planet for free in a little over six months’ time, and it’s rumoured that an orderly queue is already forming.
Although offloading the 34-year-old is an idea not many Liverpool supporters will want to contemplate, it may actually be for the best. Here are FIVE reasons why…
It may be painful for Liverpool fans to accept, but the days of Gerrard at his best are a distant memory. We all remember the driving runs, the vital goals and the raking passes, but his lack of pace and mobility are now making the Reds’ skipper a weak link and a target for opposition players. Gabby Agbonlahor and Stewart Downing have already made him look sluggish this season with some clever play, and that pair are by no means world-beaters.
Moving forward, the likes of Emre Can are set to be the future of the Anfield midfield, and getting them game time before it’s too late is vital. Although it’s sad to admit, Gerrard is blocking the progress of others.
To get Gerrard into the Reds’ midfield, other have to shift around. Playing ‘Stevie’ as the holder means that two energetic players are needed to do his running, while using him in an attacking role leaves the lone striker without the runner in behind to stretch a defence.
Gerrard’s contribution has been below the average of last season already, and with more miles on the clock he’s unlikely to haul himself back to at least match what he showed last term. Also, the last goal he scored from open play was way back in February as he headed home against bitter rivals Everton.
The major sticking point between Gerrard agreeing a new contract with Liverpool seems to be pay. Both sides are seemingly willing to commit, but the 34-year-old wants to remain on a similar salary – thought to be £140,000-per-week – as he’s on now, while the Merseysiders’ owners are keen to reduce the figure by around 50%, due to his age.
Although still captain, Gerrard is no longer as vital as players such as Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, so his earnings, arguably, shouldn’t be as high as theirs. Also a pay-cut would help the club put cash towards players for the future. Remove sentiment from the equation, and big bucks for Gerrard simply doesn’t make sense.
Now vice-captain, Henderson is expected to be the Anfielders’ skipper before too long. After a difficult start to his Liverpool career, the North East-born midfielder has bounced back, and is now considered to be a vital cog in the Reds’ engine room.
Not convinced? Brendan Rodgers suggested that last season’s title collapse was due, in part, to a three game ban picked by Henderson for a red card against Manchester City, which is testament to how important his energy and influence are. Without Gerrard in the team, the England international may kick on again and move up to the next level.
Maybe a fresh start for Gerrard would make sense. The veteran has given the best years of his career to his boyhood club and earned top honours along the way. A late career move could see him experience life abroad with a top team, or give him the chance to become a trailblazer in an emerging league. Lampard has recently agreed to join MLS side New York City FC, and Gerrard could easily extend his career in America, where interest is believed to be high.