Steven Gerrard has today announced his retirement from professional football after nineteen spectacular years. The former captain of Liverpool, who has spent the last year and a half in the MLS with David Beckham’s former club LA Galaxy, has retired amid rumours he may be interesting in going into coaching. After he rejected the managerial vacancy at MK Dons, though, perhaps it is a little premature to be talking about Gerrard the manager. Gerrard the player nonetheless was one of the very best England has ever had to offer. Capped well over a hundred times for his country, Gerrard can look back at his career with a smile, going down as one of the all-time greats.
The heroics of the 2005 Champions League final will go down as his best achievement. 3-0 down at half-time against a star-studded AC Milan line-up, there was no conceivable way that Liverpool could produce the comeback of all comebacks to win the trophy for the fifth time. However, with Gerrard as captain, Liverpool scored three goals in six stunning second half minutes leaving Carlo Ancelotti’s side speechless. Gerrard scored one of the three and would have scored the third had he not been fouled in the box which lead to the goal that Xabi Alonso scored from the rebound after missing the initial penalty. Gerrard’s side, as it should be known, went onto win on penalties after some inspiring goalkeeping from Jerzy Dudek. This was indeed Gerrard’s finest hour. Liverpool would not even have progressed from the group stage had it not been for his legendary goal against Olympiacos. Steven Gerrard, as captain of Liverpool, has been one of the best midfielders the Premier League has been fortunate to witness. The following year, Gerrard scored two late goals to salvage the FA Cup final against West Ham, a game they would also win in a penalty shoot-out.
Some fans, unfortunately, may view that Gerrard’s legacy is slightly tarnished by his inability to win the Premier League title, despite playing in teams alongside Luis Suarez, Michael Owen and Fernando Torres and winning every other trophy possible, including the FA Cup, Champions League, Europa League and League Cup. The 2013/14 season, when Steven Gerrard slipped up to give Chelsea a vital win, and when Liverpool themselves lost a three goal lead away at Crystal Palace, both in the final few matches of the season, is a case in point. That year’s premier league title had Liverpool written all over it. If people are still wondering how on earth Leicester won last season’s league, they are also, although with not quite the same level of disbelief, wondering how on earth Liverpool failed to win the league in 2014.
Gerrard’s legacy however should not be tarnished by three final games of a Premier League season, but instead should be focused on what he has contributed to English football – and the global game – as a whole. Indeed, today, Gerrard has received tributes from some of the best footballers on the planet, one of the marks of a player with a brilliant legacy. Luis Suarez earlier stated that their relationship ‘goes beyond the football field’ and that he was a ‘unique player’. A unique player Steven Gerrard certainly was. Whether he becomes a football manager, or joins former team-mate and great friend Jamie Carragher as a pundit, is perhaps the next question for the Liverpool icon. But, on the day of his retirement, he should be remembered as a brilliant player, a brilliant captain, and a perfect ambassador for Liverpool. He truly is one of the greatest of all time.
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