Gerrard's desire for title overrides loyalty

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The Independent Online

Gerrard, the embodiment of Anfield character, ultimately triumphed over Paolo Maldini in Istanbul but there is nothing he would love more than to follow the Milan defender as a one-club captain and legend. Liverpool, as Benitez and Parry intimated yesterday, would love nothing more than to grant him his wish.

Gerrard withdrew from contract talks on Sunday exasperated at Liverpool's failure to place a firm offer on the table when negotiations commenced last Wednesday.

Liverpool say that they made three attempts to open talks last season, but their captain held them to a waiting game.

Confused? You should not be. In the world of Premiership football 2005 this is a saga running a natural and inevitable course. Alastair Campbell may be on the other side of the world and immersed in another sport, but the legacy of spin still thrives without him.

Six weeks ago a parting of the ways between Liverpool and Gerrard seemed inconceivable as Benitez appeared to win not one but two major prizes at the Ataturk Stadium. Six days ago it still appeared impossible. Now, however, Gerrard's departure seems inevitable. But no one is prepared to say so.

The man from Huyton does not feel wanted by Liverpool, despite the offers of any job at the club he wanted in the future, the promise of the highest contract in the club's future and the keys to the city.

Yet even now he cannot be seen as the antagonist in an acrimonious split. For their part Liverpool cannot be seen nudging their prized asset to an exit that will bring retribution flooding back in.

The question now is not who is telling the truth, but who will blink first and concede that a split will benefit both parties.

Gerrard may have won the ultimate club prize in Turkey but has made no secret of his desire to become a domestic champion, an English one preferably - as Chelsea are no doubt aware.

Lifting Liverpool's fifth European Cup on 25 May means that the midfielder is now without only one medal in club football, a league title, and for all the stunning progress under Benitez in Europe last season that is likely to remain an elusive dream at Anfield for some time yet.

Gerrard insists he does not have time.

Liverpool, despite the £20m earned in the Champions' League, do not have the money to compete with Chelsea or Manchester United domestically.

Bridging the gap on the élite has never been more difficult for Liverpool. It is a task that requires the patience and time Gerrard feels he has not got, and one that £32m will go a long way towards helping.

Above money? No one, not even Steven Gerrard, ever is.

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