The summer of 2005 was lit up by one of the most interesting transfer sagas in Premier League history. On July 5, Steven Gerrard publicly announced his decision to reject a new £100,000- a- week contract extension and in the process, extended his desire to migrate to London to play for Chelsea.
Gerrard said it was ‘the hardest decision I have ever had to make’ at the time, but Liverpool subsequently rejected Chelsea’s £32m bid for the 25-year-old and Gerrard signed a four-year contract extension the very next day.
“He [Gerrard] is a historical player for Liverpool, a historical player for the Premier League and an opponent I have always admired and respected,” Mourinho said. “We did everything to try [to sign him] and it was almost there. I was dreaming of [Claude] Makélélé, Gerrard and [Frank] Lampard in midfield.
“We were playing in a proper triangle without a No10 and playing Maka in front of the defenders. Me, Mr Abramovich and [the former Chelsea chief executive] Peter Kenyon at that time, we dreamed of that.
“His people were open to him joining a top side like Chelsea. But to me personally he never said he would come. Never. He [Gerrard] was always a red and I think the decision was right.”
Ah well, Jose, dry your eyes mate, it didn’t happen. But lets figuratively wonder what a transfer of that magnitude would have meant for Chelsea, Liverpool and even England.
For Chelsea, Mourinho would have had the most physically abrasive and penetrative midfield in Premier League history. Lampard came second in World Footballer of the Year in 2005 and Gerrard came second in the Ballon d’Or in 2008. Both performed at a staggeringly consistent level until about 2010, so you’d assume that Chelsea would have dominated English football well into the noughties. Right?
Wrong, actually. German wonderboy Michael Ballack joined in 2006, an equal to Gerrard in many ways, and Deco joined in 2009. Chelsea arguably failed to win in England those years with Ballack because Sir Alex Ferguson assembled his best Premier League team in history (that team which boasted Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez going forward) which would later nick the Champions League from John Terry’s hands and win three straight Premier Leagues.
The damage, more, would have been done to Liverpool, who he carried forward inspirationally, especially in the FA Cup the following year where he single-handedly put West Ham to bed in the final. Rafa Benitez’s reign was generally more successful than people remember, and peaked in 2008 when they finished second to United with a staggering 86 points. The departures of Xabi Alonso, Javier Masherano and Fernando Torres slowly dismantled that team, and Liverpool were ultimately at their most reliant on Gerrard between 2009-2012 when they were weighed down by the Hicks/Gillet ownership struggle.
It’s difficult to imagine Mersyside finding anyone nearly as iconic to lead them through the last decade, while Abramovic’s bank account has guaranteed an influx of available talent to Chelsea all the way through. Essentially, the move as a whole would have been a much greater loss to Liverpool than a gain for Chelsea.
The more interesting think would have been to see if an England national coach would have replicated Mourinho’s proposed use of Gerrard and Lampard in tandem with a designated holder behind. The reason those English midfield giants never gelled together internationally is because they always played in a midfield two, meaning one of them had to sit deeper, contradictory to what they did best.
That would have provided a foundation for a Scholes-Gerrard-Lampard English midfield. It’s utterly tragic that such never happened.
Anyway, you can speculate all you want about what might have happened, but Gerrard and Lampard’s intertwined careers look set to continue into the future when they wind up in the retirement home of world football – the MLS.
You can speculate all you want about what might have happened. Gerrard ultimately chose to stay at Liverpool, and the people of Mersyside will undoubtedly be indebted to him long into the future.