Loyal Gerrard leaves Liverpool after 16 years

That’s all: Steven Gerrard and his daughters at Anfield after his last home game. Ⓒ PA

Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard has played his final game for the club. He has played there for 16 years despite many more lucrative offers. What value does loyalty to one club have?

On Sunday afternoon in Stoke, almost 10 years to the day after lifting the European Cup in Istanbul as captain, Steven Gerrard walked off the pitch in a Liverpool shirt for the 710th and final time. He had scored his 186th goal for the club but seen them suffer a dreadful 6-1 defeat. During a career spanning more than 16 years, Gerrard seemed inextricably linked to Liverpool, but as his 35th birthday approaches, he now leaves to represent LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States.

Joining Gerrard in the MLS will be Frank Lampard, who also spent most of his career with a single club, Chelsea, and is going to New York. The two will remain rivals after careers as the dominant English midfielders of their generation, who regularly prompted frustration at their apparent failure to get the best from each other when playing for England.

Gerrard’s departure has drawn particular comment due to the relative rarity of a player representing only one club for such a large portion of his career. He could have significantly boosted his chances of winning the Premier League if he had moved elsewhere, with his near-move to super-rich Chelsea in 2005 his most obvious opportunity to do so. Had he made that switch, he would almost certainly now have Premier League winners’ medals. But he would also have inspired great antipathy in Merseyside, where he had made his way through the ranks since childhood.

On his final day as a Liverpool player, many of the Premier League’s key battles had already been decided. Chelsea, who secured the league title weeks ago, knew they would receive the trophy amid a party at Stamford Bridge. Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United made up a somewhat predictable quartet to qualify for the Champions League. The most significant results on Sunday saw Hull City relegated and Newcastle United get the win they needed to survive for another season.

Time to reflect

Gerrard had the ability to win the Premier League, but he never did. Many other players have moved clubs in order to win trophies; Gerrard could have done likewise, and some say he should have. He’ll now never be remembered as a member of a title-winning team. When he thinks over his time at Liverpool, that will always nag him. Great players should do all they can to win the biggest trophies.

But perhaps that isn’t the point, others respond. At a time when footballers are increasingly perceived as money-grabbing individualists, it was refreshing to see someone put his club first. Gerrard could not have been who he was without Liverpool. He has the respect of fans, who will remember him fondly. That counts for far more than a trophy ever could.

You Decide

  1. Was Gerrard right to stay at Liverpool for so long?
  2. Is loyalty more important than achievement?

Activities

  1. In small groups, research the careers of some people you admire. How many career moves did they make? Would they have achieved more if they had made more or fewer changes in their lives?
  2. Steven Gerrard is beloved for being a team leader as well as an exceptional athlete. Get into groups and plan a physical activity which encourages teamwork and communication

Some People Say...

“Football fans shouldn’t expect players to be loyal”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why is Gerrard’s story unusual?
Footballers tend to move clubs quite frequently, and the biggest clubs are always keen to buy the best players. Lots of players may move clubs this summer, including Raheem Sterling of Liverpool and Harry Kane of Tottenham. It is fairly clear which teams are likely to compete for trophies and which are not and football is a short career, so it can be very difficult to convince players to stay at a club if they feel they have a better chance of winning trophies elsewhere.
Do the departures of Gerrard and Lampard leave the Premier League worse off?
Both have been iconic players and will be missed, but neither of them was able to hold down a regular first-team place at a top club this season. It is probably a natural time for them to move on.

Word Watch

Lifting the European Cup
Liverpool beat AC Milan on penalties in a dramatic final. With the Reds 3-0 down by half-time, the cup looked gone. But Gerrard scored a header, which was swiftly followed by two more goals. The match went to extra time before Liverpool won the penalty shoot-out 3-2.
Major League Soccer
Other big-name footballers who have played in the MLS after spending most of their careers in England include David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Clint Dempsey. Gerrard joins Keane, with whom he briefly played at Liverpool, at LA Galaxy.
Near-move to super-rich Chelsea
Chelsea had become champions of England for the first time in 50 years in 2005 and manager Jose Mourinho, in his first spell at Stamford Bridge, made clear his intention to sign Gerrard. Although Liverpool had just won the Champions’ League, they had only finished 5th domestically and appeared far behind Chelsea. At one point Gerrard declared that he would leave Liverpool, prompting anger among fans, before he changed his mind and signed a new contract.

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