Steven Gerrard set to join the elite club

Once in a generation there comes a player who can attack, score goals, defend, tackle and most importantly inspire an entire team. Inspiration of such a level that it can pick up a team that was downtrodden and disheartened, and help them defeat arguably the best team in the world at that time.

Steven Gerrard set to join the elite club

Steven Gerrard set to join the elite club

At half time in Istanbul during the Champions League Final in 2005, the mightiness of Milan had scored 3 goals to Liverpool’s zero. There was only so much that Rafa Benitez could do as a manager to inspire his team. What he needed was someone to keep the team going on the field. Someone who could make the impossible happen – a Supernova.

At half time no one would have imagined the drama that was about to unfold in front of their eyes. In the 54th minute John Arne Riise crossed the ball into the Milan penalty box with his second attempt. Amongst the tall strong Milan defense was a red jersey with number 8 on the back and the captain’s band on his hand – Steven Gerrard! Gerrard connected with the cross and opened Liverpool’s account for the night. The six minutes that followed has forever gone into the history books. Two minutes later Vladamir Smicer scored from outside the penalty box to reduce the deficit to one goal. It was not over for Liverpool they needed one more goal to take the match into extra time. In the 60th minute it was once again that man Steven Gerrard, Gerrard surged into the box uncontested and had a clear goal scoring chance in front. Gattuso took him down in the penalty box and Liverpool won a penalty. Gerrard unselfishly gave Alonso the kick. Alonso failed from the spot but hit the rebound in. The score read 3-3. Liverpool eventually won the match on penalties and got their fifth European Title.

Also Read: Downfall of an Empire – What went wrong for AC Milan?

Zinedine Zidane said in 2009 “Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but yes, I think he might be.” Liverpool fans call him Captain Fantastic and rightfully so. Very few players have the attribute to be a natural leader and Steven Gerrard has that. In 2012 prior to the Euro 2012 Gerrard had another feather in his cap when he was made the captain of the England National Team.

Gerrard joined Liverpool academy at the age of nine and signed his first professional contract on November 5th 1997. After just over a year on the 29th of November 1998, the world witnessed a moment that would change football for years to come. Gerrard came on as a last minute substitute against Blackburn Rovers. He made 13 appearances in his debut season. The following two seasons were quiet ones for Gerrard as he was yet to identify his role. He was also sidelined for a few months due to injury woes.

The 2000-01 season was turnaround in his fortunes. Gerrard played 50 matches and scored 10 times. He won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup with Liverpool that year, the season after that he won the FA Charity Shield and the UEFA Super Cup.

In October 2003 Gerrard was named as the new Liverpool Captain, taking over from Sami Hyppia. The then manager Gerard Houllier most recently stated that Gerrard is one of the best players I have managed. At the end of the 2003-04 season Liverpool went trophy less and Gerrard had concerns about his future. He stated that “for the first time in my career I’ve thought about the possibility of moving on.” The new manager Rafa Benitez was able to convince Gerrard to stay and he eventually turned down a 20m offer from Chelsea who had been then taken over by Russian Tycoon Roman Abrahimovic.

The following season one of the most highlighted goals of his career came, once again it was in the Champions League. Liverpool were playing Olympiacos in the last group stage match. They needed to win with a goal difference of two or more to progress to the next round. Liverpool initially went behind due to a Rivaldo free kick. They managed to score two goals but needed one more to progress. With time against them and the odds everything seemed lost. Then stepped up the man for the moment, Gerrad volleyed one way outside the penalty area flat and it rocketed into the net. Andy Gray who was commentating went Berserk and his commentary made that goal even more special all he said was “ Gerard….Ohhh you beauty…what a hit son…what a hit.” That goal still gives goose bumps to anyone who adores football.

Gerrard said it was the most important goal he scored but not his best. The importance of the goal was true as Liverpool famously won the Champions League that season. Gerrard was the man of the match in the final and later received the UEFA Club footballer of the year award.

There were once again issue regarding his contract and after the final Gerrard said “ How can I leave after a final like this?” Liverpool once again turned down an offer from Chelsea. Gerrard rejected a club record 100000 pounds per week offer.  Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry conceded the club had lost Gerrard, saying, “Now we have to move on. We have done our best, but he has made it clear he wants to go and I think it looks pretty final.” The next day, Gerrard signed a new four-year deal.

After the 2005-06 season he was voted the PFA player of the year. In the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham he scored twice to send the match into extra time and the late equalizer was another magic from that right foot of Steven Gerrard. This time he scored despite being injured and barely able to walk.

The goals made him the first and till date the only player to score in an FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League and UEFA Cup Finals. He was the central figure as Liverpool made it to another Champions League final in 2007, but this time he could not get them the win.

Gerrard played his 300th Premier League match on April 13th 2008. On his 100th Appearance in Europe on March 10, 2009; Gerrard scored twice in a 4-0 win over the Spanish power house. The funny part was Madrid was one of the clubs that so desperately wanted to sign Gerrard back in his prime.

After the 2009-10 season, Liverpool lost their way, Benitez left and Hogdson came in. He too failed to do much for the club and then Dalglish came in. Dalglish had a cup glory but was fired after the 2012 season. Liverpool in this period lost some of their star players including Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun and many more. One man stayed with the club and today at the age of 32 he still stands tall in the center of the Liverpool team and the English team. Fans know that the only reason why Gerrard has never won a Premier League title is because he chose not to leave Liverpool. But Gerrard stated that all those memories he has with Liverpool are far more superior than a League title he could have bought if he had joined another Club. Liverpool are under reconstruction in the new Brendan Rodgers era.

Gerrard scored his first league goal of this season against Manchester United and celebrated by pointing to the sky. Gerrard’s cousin was one of the 96 who had died in the Hillsborough disaster and the match against United was the first home match after the verdict of the disaster. He scored his 150th goal for Liverpool this season as well.

On Sunday when Liverpool host Newcastle and if Gerrard plays it will be his 600th game in a Liverpool jersey a feat achieved by very few players. Gerrard is one of those rare players who have played for one club throughout his career. He has stayed with the club through the good times and the hard times. Others may come and go but he will always be there.

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