5 things that could have happened if Steven Gerrard had joined Chelsea
“I wouldn’t change my journey for anything,” asserts a nostalgic Steven Gerrard of 17 years of Kop service, before his final home game against Crystal Palace. An opportunistic Gerrard of 7 years of Kop service though seemed to think differently, clamouring for a move to Chelsea - the nouveau riche.
Time’s a funny thing, it is. From receiving death threats and having posters ripped to shreds and burnt to ashes by glowering fans in 2005, to being the reason behind a 2800% rise in ticket prices at Anfield in 2015, Gerrard has seen it all, lived it all.
From central midfield to right wing to box-to-box to the hole, Gerrard has played it all. As the curtains to his illustrious career draw to a close, all this leaves us pondering, wondering ‘what if?’.
What if Gerrard’s father Paul hadn’t convinced him to stay at Merseyside? What if Mourinho’s machinations had borne fruit? What if Gerrard had betrayed Liverpool? What if Gerrard had turned blue? So, what if Steven Gerrard really had managed to force his move to Chelsea? Hypothetically, what would the ramifications have been?
Big fish, massive ocean
The Liverpool midfield certainly was no ‘pond’ as the analogy dictates, but it was far from an ‘ocean’. While there did exist healthy competition for places between Danny Murphy, Didi Hamann and Igor Biscan, none ever endangered the place of Gerrard, who by then ascended the role of captain. It was almost as if the team was beginning to be built around him, like he was the cornerstone of that Liverpool side.
The Chelsea midfield in contrast was one that typified cutthroat competition. The Blues already boasted the likes of Makelele and Lampard (who was the cornerstone of that Chelsea side, much like Gerrard was to Liverpool), and each year, made a pricey addition there.
Tens of millions were squandered on Veron in 2003, Scott Parker and Tiago in 2004 - all three of whom could not make the cut - while similarly large sums spent on Essien in 2005 (who arrived because Gerrard didn’t), and Michael Ballack in 2006 paid off. No player could walk into such a midfield, not even Liverpool’s captain. Chelsea’s midfield was like the Pacific, and Frank Lampard was the great white shark.
So, if Gerrard had moved to Chelsea in 2004 - when the saga began, or in 2005 - when he was on the brink of doing so, would he have been content fighting for a place in the midfield, just like the rest? Would he have been able to take being treated like a commoner, after becoming the aristocracy?
More importantly, would Gerrard have been able to become the player he is today, to sustain that which he had achieved, for another ten years, in an alien, potentially hostile setting?
Knowing Gerrard, he may well have become the killer whale in Chelsea. Knowing Chelsea (read; Veron, Torres, Shevchenko), he may well have become krill. Well, we’ll never know. I’m not even sure if we want to find out.
The Torres-Gerrard affair
It is said that the universe has bizarre, yet sure ways of making things which are destined to happen, even if they seem unlikely, or impossible. If Gerrard had moved to Chelsea in 2005, Fernando Torres may have become ‘the one that got away’ from Gerrard.
We may have been deprived of some of the Premier League’s most beautiful spectacles of attacking play, camaraderie and bromance between the two. Fernando Torres may not have been nominated for the Ballon d’Or, or become the fastest Liverpool player to score 50 goals, or even be the subject of a £50-million-pound bid. All this if he had moved to Liverpool in 2007 like he did. Let’s delve a little deeper though.
When Torres made his sensational switch to Anfield in 2007, he cited Liverpool being “England’s best, and one of Europe’s best” as his main reason for joining the Reds. And Liverpool were, verily, a ferocious side at the time, having won the Champions League and finished as runners-up in 2005 and 2007 respectively (although they hadn’t won the Premier League since 1990).
Most, if not all of that credit must go to their captain - Steven Gerrard - who finished as top scorer in two of those seasons, besides contributing in several other ways. So, take Gerrard out of the mix and what were Liverpool left with? Sure, they had an excellent side, but leader-less. Gerrard was their primus inter pares.
What then? Would Torres have remained at Atletico, leading them on to greater heights? Or would he have made a move anyway? After all, Atletico were struggling to attain a top-half finish, and here was a player with the world at his feet; all he needed was the means of making it happen. Next best option? Chelsea.
Considering Chelsea’s unrelenting pursuit of Fernando Torres began way back in 2003, many even expected Chelsea to win Torres’s signature. What tipped it in Liverpool’s favour was surely Steven Gerrard and his impact on their performance in Europe, apart from the presence of Rafael Benitez. With Gerrard at Chelsea and a Liverpool devoid of Gerrard, well, you can do the math.
This brings us to an even more intriguing ‘what if’ than the previous one. What if Torres had in fact moved to Chelsea in 2007? Would Torres’s stay at Chelsea still have been as monumental a failure as it turned out to be? Would the Torres-Gerrard bromance still have happened?
Sure, they’d have been united, but circumstances at Chelsea (who already had quite an arsenal in midfield and attack) were extremely different from those at Liverpool. Would Torres - who Blues fans have progressed from despising to pitying- have emerged as another Didier Drogba? What would have become of his potential partnership with a younger Didier Drogba?
Well, the only near-certainty (and that’s the best you can get when you’re being hypothetical) is that Torres would not have gotten away from Gerrard, even if he had traded red for blue. The universe would have provided for it. Because some things cannot be wiped out; they’re indelible.