Steven Gerrard could have quite literally played for any team in the world. Jose Mourinho pursued him (somewhat aggressively) for Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. This triumvirate of European clubs were amongst the most dominant teams of their respective eras. Chelsea won back-to-back league titles under Mourinho. Inter Milan won the coveted ‘treble’: Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League. Mourinho’s Real Madrid,although somewhat masked by a dominant Barcelona, still managed to triumph in the Spanish League in his second season. Our captain was pursued by AC Milan when Carlo Ancelotti was their manager; he wanted Gerrard to partner Pirlo in midfield, what a partnership that could have been. Despite Sir Alex describing him as not worthy of ‘top, top’ player status, he still tried to sign him three times, bitter? And Bayern Munich attempted to recruit Gerrard relatively recently, the season before they won the Bundesliga title and the Champions League by beating Borussia Dortmund at Wembley. You get the point, any team would have loved Gerrard, but he loved Liverpool, or should I say loves Liverpool, and exhibited his vast array of talents for us over 17 years. I have picked out a set of ‘alternative’ Gerrard moments. Of course many fans will remember these moments as vividly as the pre-mentioned events, but I thought drawing attention to them was somewhat appropriate and hopefully it will jog the memories for some who have forgotten them.
Tuesday 22nd January 2001:
We travelled to the Theatre of Reality hopeful of a treble of victories over Manchester.Und for the season, having already beaten our rivals in the Charity Shield and in the league at Anfield. 84 minutes on the clock, Gerrard receives the ball in United’s half and perfects the most audacious pass directly into Danny Murphy’s path who lifts it over Fabien Barthez. There are numerous things about the pass that stand out. Firstly, Gerrard’s vision to spot Murphy and play him in so precisely; Murphy’s movement would not be described as a conventional ‘run’, he only moved a matter of yards within a crowded penalty box. Nonetheless, this movement was enough for Gerrard. Secondly, how perfectly the pass was weighted and curved: not taking anything away from a good finish by Murphy, but he more ore less redirected Gerrard’s pass into the net. A treble of victories over United was complete.
Wednesday 30th November 2005:
Liverpool travelled to the Stadium of Light and managed to leave with a comfortable 2-0 win, courtesy of goals from Luis Garcia and, of course, Gerrard. This goal would probably not feature in Gerrard’s top 20, 50 or even 100 goals for Liverpool, but I’ve included it as it demonstrates the completeness of his all-round game. The pass against United mentioned above was typical of Gerrard’s passing ability; this goal against Sunderland highlights how able he was at initiating a good pass from another player with a quality run. On this occasion it was Xabi Alonso who turned provider, executing a delicate, trade-mark pass which was made possible by Gerrard’s clever movement. Stevie went on to round the keeper and pass the ball into an empty net.
Saturday 13th May 2006:
Cup final day. The Gerrard Final. How many other players actually have a cup final named after them? I said I wouldn’t mention ‘that’ goal, and I won’t. I’m not even going to talk about his other goal that day, which was another brilliant strike. It was Gerrard’s assist for Cisse, our first goal of the afternoon to make it 2-1 in West Ham’s favour. What a pass. Gerrard received the ball from Finnan, just over the half-way line, and after a couple of touches arrowed a diagonal pass beyond the reach of a desperate West Ham defence, meeting Cisse’s run perfectly. ‘Telegraphed’ as Andy Gray would say/probably did say.
Saturday 11th August 2007:
Its 1-1 at Villa Park. Gareth Barry has just equalised for Villa with an 85th minute penalty: another one of those days for the Reds? But there is a glimmer of hope, Steven Gerrard is lining up a free-kick – its the 87th minute. You know the rest. Never mind Beckham, ‘bend it like Gerrard’. For me, that goal was, and still is, the definition of ‘top-corner’.
Sunday 30th March 2008:
Merseyside derby day. Liverpool triumphed 1-0, thanks to Fernando Torres’ 28th goal of the season. But the moment I’ll always remember from the game was Gerrard’s ‘double-tackle’ on Phil Jagielka: Stevie puts pressure on the Everton defender, deep in the toffee’s half and blocks his attempted clearance. The ball ricochets and spirals backwards, Jagielka trying desperately to get it under control, with Gerrard at full-pace behind him. As the Everton man turns and attempts to clear the ball for a second time, Gerrard executes the most perfect sliding tackle, taking the ball cleanly but hammering the defender at the same time. The kop is raucous as a result of Gerrard’s enthusiasm and desire, you could just sense it was going to be our day after that tackle.
Tuesday 16th September 2008:
We’re playing Marseille in the Champions League and getting beat 1-0 courtesy of a Cana goal. Not for long though: the reds break forward, Dirk Kuyt receives the ball on the right-flank, turns inside and plays the ball into the feet of Gerrard. The pass is not particularly great, the ball a little behind Gerrard, but somehow he manages to make perfect contact with it, curling the ball over Mandanda at the far post. Is there anything Gerrard can’t do?
Sunday 22nd May 2011:
Back at Villa Park, this time for the last game of the 2011 campaign. A pretty bad day at the office as they say, with Villa winning 1-0 thanks to a Stewart Downing goal. Gerrard was injured that afternoon and couldn’t make the squad. Well, how can this possibly register as a ‘top’ Gerrard moment if he wasn’t even involved? Because Gerrard was in the crowd, standing with his mates in the away end. Not sitting within the comfort of the executive box, draped in leather and bling, drinking complimentary champagne and eating prawn sandwiches. He’s in the thick of it. Gerrard always said if he didn’t make it as a Liverpool player he would have been in the crowd every week: fan, captain, leader, legend.
Tuesday 28th January 2014:
Another Merseyside derby at Anfield. What a night that was, winning 4-0 and comprehensively out-playing our neighbours from across Stanley Park. I include this as I wanted to mention at least one header that Gerrard scored. The obvious contender for this would be the Istanbul header, but I said I wouldn’t talk about that. Luis Suarez drills in a corner with decent pace and Gerrard connects with it with the precision needed to re-direct it into the goal. I’m not sure if it was better than the one against Milan, but nonetheless, it was some goal. The way he twists his body to maximise leverage and connection with the ball stands out.
Wednesday 12th February 2014:
This was the night that I genuinely believed we were going to win the title. The first in my life-time. That hope and optimism: what a feeling it was. We won a great game of football, beating Fulham 3-2 at Craven Cottage. I’m not picking out a single moment of the match, just the match in its fulness. It was a typical Gerrard display, he was ubiquitous. We went a goal down due to some strange manoeuvre from Kolo Toure resulting in an OG. Nevertheless, in the 41st minute the ball broke in Liverpool’s half and Steven Gerrard practically pushed Henderson out of his way before striding onto the ball and curving the ball through to Sturridge – an unbelievable pass with the outside of his right-foot. The bend on the ball was so perfect that it almost changed direction before it reached Sturridge: the boomerang pass (you read it here first). In stoppage time, the score was 2-2 and Gerrard is standing over the ball, preparing to hit a penalty kick. I was nervous at the time, but in hindsight I don’t actually know why – this was no ordinary player taking the penalty, this was captain fantastic. A perfect penalty. 3-2 Liverpool: league title race well and truly on.
I could continue to write this tribute to our captain, but by the time I finish Gerrard would probably be in California polishing a MLS winners medal. I hope he achieves that particular feat with LA Galaxy, he deserves a league title. In my opinion, no player will ever eclipse Gerrard at Liverpool Football Club, he is truly one of a kind. The local lad who went from kicking a ball in the streets of Whiston to captaining Liverpool to their fifth European Cup in the greatest European Cup Final of all time. It has been a pleasure watching our captain over the years, and in my view, is not only Liverpool’s greatest ever player but, at his peak, was also Europe’s best midfield player. Steven Gerrard: the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.