As Steven Gerrard bid an emotional farewell to the Liverpool supporters on Saturday after serving the team for 17 unbroken seasons since his debut against Blackburn at Anfield in 1998, he must have reflected on the absence of a Premier League winner’s medal from his collection of souvenirs from his playing time on Merseyside. Gerrard is now moving to LA Galaxy to ply his trade in the North American MLS League but there are suggestions that he could return to Liverpool at the end of that season in December, and then train with the first team squad during the winter. That begs the question as to whether Gerrard will actually reappear in the famous all red colours in front of the Anfield Kop.
There can be no doubting Gerrard’s influence at Anfield during his career as one-club man. His heroic performance when Liverpool clinched a Champions League victory in Istanbul, when 3-0 adrift to AC Milan at the interval, will always be remembered as part of Merseyside folklore, and his ability to salvage crucial points and victories by scoring late goals was another of his admiral assets.
However, that elusive Premier League title remains a failure for Gerrard and it was only last season when he appeared destined to lift that trophy only for the Reds lose 2-0 at home to Chelsea three matches from the end of the season, and then draw 3-3 in the following match with Crystal Palace when leading 3-0.
Gerrard has appeared less often this season as a few niggling injuries and a general slowing of his natural reactions has offered other squad players more opportunities, in particular Jordan Henderson. There are arguments as to whether Gerrard’s departure will allow the other midfield squad players to flourish in his absence or conversely a lack of true leadership in the team could have damaging consequences.
For many years now, when Liverpool have travelled to opposing stadiums, home fans have been accustomed to Gerrard dominating proceedings from his customary position in the middle of the pitch and rarely missing a pass. When Liverpool have led and their captain has been substituted, his departure has often been greeted with warm applause by both sections of supporters, such were his generally recognised abilities with the ball at his feet and his general influence on the game.
As he approaches his 35th birthday, Steven Gerrard now faces a new challenge and he has already admitted his belief that MLS football may not be suitable for his style of play. It will also be a new continent, new football club and a different way of life for the departing Liverpool captain.
Fans, players and officials at Anfield will offer their best wishes to Gerrard and his family in this new venture but should Liverpool confound the experts and become serious challengers for the Premier League title next season, what price would be offered on Gerrard arriving on Merseyside on a loan deal during the winter in the same way as Frank Lampard and David Beckham have exploited that situation in previous seasons.