One of the keys to Liverpool’s success has been Steven Gerrard’s ability to transform himself into the man who his manager, Brendan Rodgers, claims is the best holding midfielder in Europe.
The Liverpool captain has been nominated for the PFA’s Player of the Year award he won in 2006. Then, he was a very different type of player, emphasised by the almost single-handed way he appeared to win that year’s FA Cup final.
He was a midfielder who attacked relentlessly rather than the man who controls the game from in front of his own back four.
“He is arguably the best in European football in this controlling role at this moment in time,” said Rodgers. “There’s not many players who can do what he can do – be one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe and then switch to being arguably the best controlling player. You look at the holding players at the top European teams and I wouldn’t swap him for any of them because of what he can give the team – he is a playmaker who can also defend.”
Rodgers added: “Before I came here, people used to say he was a player who couldn’t fit into a team structure – he was the No 10 who needed to do it all himself.”
Nevertheless, although Rodgers had planned to move Gerrard deeper from the moment he succeeded Kenny Dalglish as manager at Anfield two years ago, the player himself took some convincing. Gerrard initially told Rodgers that he was not ready to do it.
“I think Steven felt he had more in him,” Rodgers said. “As we spoke more about the role or I dropped it into conversations, he became more positive.
“But he was not just going to take what you told him. There had to be a rationale behind it – there had to be a reason why.”