- Steven Gerrard will leave Liverpool at the end of this season
- Gerrard has been a key player since his debut in 1998
- Replacing the talismanic captain will be an impossible job for the club
Sat in a luxurious meeting room in a hotel in downtown Chicago, Steven Gerrard was talking about the past, the present and the future.
It was July 27, Liverpool had just breezed past Olympiakos in a pre-season friendly. After Gerrard had dealt with the thorny issue of what happened during the title run-in last April, then discussed what would happen in the post Luis Suarez era, the conversation turned to Frank Lampard.
His old England colleague had just decided to embark on a fresh challenge in the MLS and it was put to Gerrard whether he could ever envisage a life beyond Liverpool. This was his response.
Gerrard has only ever played for Liverpool, winning the Champions League in Istanbul in 2005
Gerrard has been an inspirational captain for more than a decade, leading the team since 2003
Gerrard was instrumental in his sides run to the Champions League final in 2005 to win their fifth European title
‘At his age of 36, he’s had a wonderful career and I don’t think he has anything to prove in England anymore,’ said Gerrard. ‘He’s broken records with Chelsea and won everything with them. I think it’s a perfect move for him at his time. One day that might happen to me, I don’t know.
‘I’ve never really discussed it with anyone or thought about it. Maybe one day I would like the chance to go away from Liverpool for a short time and try something different. But I haven’t given it much thought. That carrot hasn’t been dangled yet.’
Now it has and it has prompted Gerrard to make a heart-rending decision.
From May 23, Liverpool Football Club will no longer have their talismanic No 8 to turn to. There was always going to be a day when Liverpool and Gerrard were no more but, even still, the news takes some getting used to.
Like Jamie Carragher (left) Gerrard’s departure will leave a void that is impossible to fill
Liverpool now have a job to do replacing two club legends who will leave within two years of each other
Gerrard has been offered a new deal by his club, but will not sign a deal beyond the end of the season
Gerrard was man of the match in the 2006 FA Cup final, scoring twice to help Liverpool lift the trophy
Gerrard fast established himself as a fans favourite and has stayed with Liverpool for 17 years
There has been a lot of noise this season about Gerrard, his form and whether he can still contribute in the Barclays Premier League. He might not be the rampaging force of nature who, 10 years ago, inspired that night in Istanbul but his role runs deeper than what happens on the pitch.
Gerrard, along with Jamie Carragher, provided the heart and soul to Liverpool during countless changes since the turn of the Millennium and has always been on hand to say or do the right thing at the right time. They had been the link between the terrace and the squad.
Carragher has never been adequately replaced in the 18 months since his retirement but if manager Brendan Rodgers had a hard job looking for a new No 23, he is now faced with an impossible challenge to find someone who will adequately fill that No 8 jersey.
Gerrard has never won the Premier League title, coming closest last season when Liverpool fell just short
Since making his Liverpool debut in 1998 Gerrard has played almost 500 league games for the club
This decision is something Gerrard has been wrestling with for months, the excitement of pursuing a new challenge somewhere else always being counterbalanced by the love and affinity he has for Liverpool, the club he grew up dreaming he would one day represent.
He will not want the next five months to become overly nostalgic and he will be committed to helping Liverpool obtain their highest possible finish in the Premier League, while hoping that, perhaps, there will be one final day at Wembley.
Once the end of May arrives, though, that will be it. And Liverpool will never be the same again.