Liverpool accept Steven Gerrard could quit Anfield for a fresh challenge

Rodgers reveals captain has yet to agree contract offer and admits he may leave for personal rather than football reasons

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The Independent Online

Liverpool acknowledge they may face a fight to keep Steven Gerrard beyond the end of this season, with manager Brendan Rodgers now admitting that the player could look elsewhere as the club prepare to ration his appearances.

Rodgers insisted yesterday Gerrard remains too integral to the Liverpool side to adopt an ancillary role similar to the one in which 36-year-old Frank Lampard has delivered as an impact player for Manchester City this season. He said the captain still had two years left at the Liverpool helm, if he wanted them.

But two weeks on from a meeting between Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, and Gerrard’s agent, Struan Marshall, at which the terms of a renewed one-year rolling deal were put on the table, the club is yet to hear that Gerrard is ready to prolong his Anfield career. Rodgers did not display the same optimism about Gerrard extending his deal that he has previously and said that lifestyle issues were a part of his captain’s consideration.

“There are other factors involved that are as much about life as they are about football,” he said. “One thing I know absolutely is that it is not about money. It is not about finances.” When it was put to Rodgers that other top clubs may come in for Gerrard, he said: “I can only think about the situation here and I hope there is a solution with the club and the representatives. It is not about the money, it is about the time of his career in terms of playing. He is a big, big talent.”

Gerrard was unhappy that the club did not make an offer to him before last month – only two months before he enters the last six months and becomes free to talk to other clubs – though his private considerations may now include what the next two years at Anfield will actually look like.

The club, who play at Leicester City tonight in the League, are in yet another period of transition, assuming a more defensive approach to halt the slump of just one win in eight matches before Saturday’s late victory over Stoke City, and Gerrard has taken substantial criticism for the struggle. The prospect of a swansong in the United States or Italy – both of which present opportunities – may be a far more attractive proposition for Gerrard.

He would be a huge draw to Major League Soccer, where the anticipated imminent arrival of Lampard and David Villa while still only just past their peak is seen as a boost to the burgeoning league’s credibility. Thierry Henry’s announcement yesterday that he would not renew his contract with the New York Bulls in 2015 creates what could be an attractive lifestyle option for Gerrard and his young family.

In Italy, Roma could be interested if, as expected, they sell Kevin Strootman to Manchester United. Both Milan clubs are potential buyers and Milan tried to sign Gerrard when Carlo Ancelotti was manager, in the last decade, though the feeling in Italy is that having Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Michael Essien in the same team would be too much of a former Premier League contingent. Internazionale may also be interested.

In Spain, it is understood that Real Madrid and Barcelona would not be options and clubs beneath them may be less attractive, since Gerrard rejected Real in the past. Valencia have money to spend again, nevertheless.

British clubs would also be attracted by the idea of Gerrard in their ranks, with Manchester City one possibility if – as seems likely – Lampard is needed for the role he was hired for in New York.

Rodgers rejected the idea that Gerrard might now be eased into a coaching role. “At this moment in time he is still very much a player,” the manager said. “This is his concentration. When I see how he trains and works it is still about playing. Then, maybe there is a role further down the line. To have someone like that beside you in a coaching capacity would be great. At this moment it is purely about football. He is 35 years old at the end of this season and still has a couple of years to play if he wants to. There are many things at this stage he needs to factor in, it is not just about football.”

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