Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool idol Steven Gerrard won't leave Anfield quietly

By Steven Beacom

The fall out continues. There is no end in sight either. It is going to run and run. This one is a marathon not a sprint.

Steven Gerrard's summer departure from Liverpool for LA Galaxy already feels like the long goodbye. Much has been said and what is still to come could be the most revealing of all.

Gerrard's Liverpool playing career drawing to a close was always going to prompt mass debate about whether he was the greatest Kop idol, provide numerous tributes from across the footballing world and revive glorious memories of epic performances at Anfield, Goodison, Old Trafford, the Millennium Stadium and of course the Ataturk in Istanbul.

Not forgetting mentions of a trophy collection minus a Premier League medal and yes, that slip against Chelsea.

We knew the score. So did he. Stevie G was supposed to finish on an emotion filled May day on Merseyside scoring the winner from 30 yards in front of the Kop having ran himself into the ground for the cause one final time, before walking into sunset and retiring after only ever turning out for the club of his dreams.

No regrets. No recriminations. Not much more to say.

It's not working out that way, is it?

Since news broke on New Year's Day that Gerrard was leaving Liverpool, there's been the best ever debate, the memories and the tributes, but there's been far more besides from frustrated fans and annoyed ex-team-mates questioning just how their club can let him go like this.

Gerrard has been talking too.

And insisting that he WOULD have remained a Red had the club offered him a contract earlier.

With boss Brendan Rodgers informing the midfielder his playing time would be managed moving forward, prior to a new package landing on the table in November, Gerrard admitted that was 'a painful conversation' to have. The player was left with a sour taste.

Liverpool were either too arrogant to think that the player's loyalty to the club would see him sign any deal when it was put in front of him at any time or, and this would be harder for Kopites to accept, weren't really that keen to keep the bloke who, even at 34, was still their most influential player.

The former is more likely, but that in itself raises questions because despite his gladitorial nature during games, willing to meet every challenge head on with an intensity, passion and physicality that has seen him win battle after battle in his career, perhaps one of the most surprising elements of Gerrard's character off the field is his need to feel loved.

Think back to 2005 when he inspired the team to a stunning Champions League triumph. A few weeks later he was going to join Chelsea after issues over a new contract convinced him the Anfield side weren't truly committed to him. He may have had a dramatic change of heart then, finely detailed in his autobiography, but 10 years on Gerrard is making it abundantly clear his future as a footballer lies elsewhere.

Crazy as it seems, this Scouser's going to Hollywood and Major League Soccer after Liverpool's lack of urgency to keep him.

Gerrard has given three interviews to date. One to LFC TV, saying as you would expect all the right things including high praise for Ulsterman Rodgers, and secondly to his local newspaper the Liverpool Echo, when he outlined he would have stayed had the club been quicker off the mark and spoke about his upset at the thought of less game time.

"I'd just retired from England to concentrate all my efforts on Liverpool. I didn't want my club games to be tailored," he said.

"My injury record had been fantastic for the past two and a half years and I had a great season from a personal point of view last season."

And yesterday with LA Galaxy, when tellingly he stated how 'aggressive' their pursuit of him was, obviously in stark contrast to his current club.

He says he is "not angry" about what has come to pass, but there can be little doubt Gerrard feels it could have been handled differently and better.

The question that remains unanswered though is who is to blame for what has become such an unsatisfactory scenario?

The fans want to know is it the club's American owners, directors or the manager or a combination of all three? Gerrard's unlikely to point the finger of blame, unless he's saving the juicy stuff for another autobiography.

Even so with a Rodgers press conference today and more interview requests for Gerrard than he's scored great goals, you know there's more to come, when for Liverpool the ideal solution would be to draw a line and let their captain do what he does best in his final few months - his talking on the pitch.

Belfast Telegraph


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