It’s an emotive line to take when viewing Steven Gerrard’s career, but in many ways, it has been disappointing. Hear me out.
Now there’s a strong, bordering on insurmountable rebuttal that can counter that claim instantly.
Two FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League, a UEFA Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, 114 England caps, an 11 year Liverpool captaincy, and a range of endorsements from the World’s best players – not least Zinedine Zidane – immediately render that assertion redundant.
There’s more. He’s arguably, if not definitely, the greatest ever Liverpool player, which has been the platform for him to be honoured as the UEFA footballer of the Year award in 2005 and come third in the Ballon d’OR. He’s been named in the PFA team of the Year eight times, the UEFA team of the Year and FIFA World XI three times, and is to date the only footballer to have ever scored a goal in an FA Cup Final, League Cup Final, UEFA Cup Final and Champions League Final.
It may be difficult, but try and look beyond that horde of impressive accolades to gauge what might have been with what has arguably been England’s best grown home product in the past fifty years.
Gerrard is a sensational talent. A rampaging box-to-box midfielder in his prime, he could individually inspire those around him to exceptional heights, driving Liverpool forward in what has ultimately been a quiet era for the club. It would be difficult to have imagined the club winning both the FA Cup in 2006 and the Champions League in 2005 without him, his goal in their 3-1 victory over Olympiakos to get them to the knockout stages and his goal in the final at Istanbul were crucial moments in what was an astounding cup run. Likewise, his equalising goal, when injured, against West Ham, was an awe-inspiring piece of brilliance.
Of course, the aforementioned praise is interminably contradictory. Gerrard has achieved so much on a personal and team level- what’s been so disappointing?
Well, to strip down to basics, ‘disappointment’ can be defined in the Oxford dictionary as ‘displeasure caused by the non-fulfilment of one’s hopes and expectations.’
The back-end of that definition is the key. For all of the incredible potential, ability, and sensation that Gerrard embodies, he ought to have achieved more in his career. Not so much on a personal level, but mainly with Liverpool. The fact that he’s never won the League is a travesty- and the irony that it was his (literal) slip that kickstarted the club’s eventual league downfall last season was utterly sickening.
Similarly, it would be wrong to say that England should have won a major competition, but their teams in 2004 and 2006 might have done a dam-sight better if not for penalties. Born in a different era, Gerrard was the calibre of personality to lead England to the heights of World Cup euphoria.
The comparison that places this best into perspective is to compare Paul Scholes, Gerrard and Frank Lampard with one another. All have been some of England’s best players, yet Gerrard has achieved the least out of them.
In a one-on-one, most are unanimous that Gerrard was a better player than Lampard, yet Lampard seems to have extracted far more from his career. Other than his superior goal tally and his record Chelsea status, at the age of 36, Lampard is still making an impact right at the top with Man City.
Gerrard’s decision to migrate to the MLS is damming. Like Scholes and Lampard, he should still be competing at the top. Perhaps not in every game, but he should still be there. His admission to trade that in for a handsome pay cheque is an admission of failure. The dumbstruck reaction of Liverpool’s team-mates (as voiced by Jordan Henderson) shows how this was not supposed to be.
For how good he is, Gerrard has not achieved what he should have at Liverpool. Scholes carried on winning titles until he was 38. Lampard has the potential to do that. And Gerrard, perhaps the best of the three, has given up on that objective at the age of 34.
Analysed alone, and Gerrard, individually has been an incredible player. Placed in the context of what might have been, and it’s difficult not to feel elements of disappointment. Born in a different era to a different Liverpool team, and Gerrard might have been one of the greatest players of all time.