As soon as Steven Gerrard announced his retirement, a lot of sports journalists came up with the a bunch of what-if scenarios “What if Steven Gerrard had moved to Chelsea?”, “What if Steven Gerrard had paired with the likes of Zinedine Zidane?”, “Does he regret not leaving Liverpool earlier?”, “Would Gerrard be considered the best player in the world today if he was playing for a Real or Barcelona?”
Hindsight is a double-edged sword, it allows everyone to scrutinize the choices someone made, but it cannot change the past. The only thing it allows is to have regrets about the past. That leads to another question, “What would Steven Gerrard do today if he had known this future? Would he have changed his decision?”
This article provides a list of reasons as to why Steven Gerrard chose to stay at Liverpool and tries to answer some of the questions posed above.
Steven Gerrard was born in Whiston, Liverpool, a 20 min drive from Anfield. He had seen legendary players like Kenny Dalglish, Jan Molby, Ian Rush and Alan Hansen grace the Anfield turf and had always dreamt of following in their footsteps and leading Liverpool to further glories. He considers himself lucky that he could play at Anfield for Liverpool and while it's true that Liverpool football club were lucky to have someone like him, that’s simply not how he thinks.
It is well documented that Liverpool arguably have one of the best fan bases in the world which is something that can extract something extra from every player. There is absolutely no guarantee that Steven Gerrard would have been given the same kind of adulation at Chelsea or Real Madrid. It is this extra support which got the best out of Steven Gerrard at Liverpool. As a result, his best performances have coincided with some of the biggest nights in Liverpool history when Anfield was rocking.
Chelsea fans never took a shining to Fernando Torres. Real Madrid fans are turning on Bale in spite of the fact that it was him who scored the final goal in the Copa del Rey, and another in the Champions League final. This could easily have been the case with Steven Gerrard and I am pretty sure he would not have wanted that.
On the other hand, Liverpool fans still sing songs about Garcia, Rodriguez and Alonso in spite of the brief stints they have had at the club. They don’t have short memories. So you can imagine the unparalleled admiration that Gerrard enjoys and will continue to enjoy in the hearts of Liverpool supporters forever.
Suarez, Torres, Owen were phenomenal footballers in their own right. But all of them struggled to come to terms with a skeptical fan base. If Suarez is given half as much support as Messi is at Camp Nou, I am sure his goal output would double. Torres struggled at Chelsea and Milan, but it took him two matches to make his mark in Spain. He now has goals against both Barcelona and Real Madrid. That’s what unconditional support can do to a player. Gerrard got that at Liverpool he might not have got that anywhere else.
He is a Liverpool Supporter
The most important of all: Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool supporter. As he said in his last interview, he cannot imagine scoring a goal against Liverpool. As Mourinho, of all people, pointed out, those are the words that describe his love towards the club and we as supporters love to hear them.
Just ask Rickie Lambert about his feelings after he scored the second goal against Aston Villa and the way he celebrated with the fans.
It was probably the most pointless goal of his career, but it was the one that he will remember forever due to the celebrations. These are small things but one goal scored for Liverpool is worth more for Gerrard than scoring 100 goals for a random team. Lifting one trophy with Liverpool is more important to him than lifting 10 with some other team.
Leaving Liverpool along with Michael Owen in 2004 would have been a sucker punch to any chance of success Liverpool could have had in the future. Gerrard knew that. As a fan, he simply did not want to take the club 10 years back in time. His decision was vindicated and his name will forever be etched in the history of modern football for two of the greatest finals in the modern era, Istanbul in 2005 and Millennium Stadium in 2006, the latter rightly known as the Gerrard final.
Team on the rise
Another reason why Steven Gerrard spurned the advances of Chelsea and Real Madrid is that Liverpool were a team on the rise. They finished in the top 4 for six consecutive years. Looking back at their records in the Champions League over those years:
- Winners: 2005
- Finalists: 2007
- Semi-Finalists: 2006, 2008
Liverpool were the best-ranked club in Europe at some point in time in 2007 because of their European exploits. He strongly believed that he could achieve something special with Liverpool and he certainly has.
So where does this leave Gerrard and his legacy? Gerrard believes that he could have won an EPL title if Brendan Rodgers was the manager 10 years ago. So why not give another 5 years to Rodgers and Liverpool? Surely, they can nick one in the next few years. The thing about Gerrard is that he will not be happy winning a league title while sitting on the bench a la Owen. He wants to be in the thick of the action. Besides, his age and BR’s philosophy of high pressing are clearly at odds. Once again, he has taken the decision which is better for the club indicating his selfless nature.
A line from Fight Club: “ We spend most of our lives working jobs we hate, to impress people we don’t like, to buy sh*t we don’t need.”
I believe that players who play for the club they do not support might have regrets over wasting their careers trying to make people/fans they don’t care about happy. Why would any logical person do that? Steven Gerrard is a logical person and so he made the right choice to play for the club he loves and the impress the people he cares about. Selfish mortals like us would probably not be able to take such a big decision but then Steven Gerrard is one of the special ones, isn’t he? Why else would Real and Zidane want him when they had Zidane himself along with Ronaldo and Beckham or Chelsea want him when they already had Lampard?
When Marco Reus signed a contract extension last month, Zorc, Borussia Dortmund’s sports manager said, “Marco can mark an era in Dortmund, like Uwe Seeler at Hamburg and Steven Gerrard at Liverpool in the past.”
Ryan Giggs, Casillas, Scholes, Terry, Lahm, Schweinsteiger all have been one club man and have more trophies to their names, but they are not the first names that come to the Zorc’s mind. That’s how special Steven Gerrard is and will remain in the world of football. When you talk about creating an era of success, no one has done it quite like him.
To summarise, it would be naive to think that Steven Gerrard regrets the decision he made and given the chance to go back in time he would most definitely make the same decision again. So no question of regret there. The regrets he might have had are regarding the titles he couldn’t win with Liverpool as opposed to those that he could’ve won with other teams.