Liverpool must return to the Champions League says Steven Gerrard
Gerrard says that if they can't return to their former glory days, they could face many more battles like the current one of retaining striker Luis Suarez
Steven Gerrard has made it his personal goal to take Liverpool back to the Champions League and return the club to where he says it belongs.
The club’s decline from European contenders to Premier League also-rans was highlighted this summer by Luis Suarez’s desire to move to what he described as a bigger club and Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhiteryan’s decision to move to Borussia Dortmund over Liverpool.
The England and Liverpool captain told The Independent earlier this week that he wants Suarez to stay, but he has admitted today that until they return to the top-four they will struggle to win such battles.
"I think the only person who knows what's happening is Luis himself," said Gerrard.
"He has a huge decision to make and, as his team-mate, I have to show him respect and give him space to make whatever decision he wants to make.
"But I think everyone knows how highly I rate him and how much I want him to stay, and what we can achieve this season basically depends on whether he stays or goes, I believe.
"While I've still got a couple of years left - and maybe a few more who knows - I have to make the most of it. And that is about adding more medals to what I already have and to leave this club in the Champions League. That is the challenge for me personally.
"It is not the same club (I joined) because we are not in the Champions League, so it becomes an awful lot more difficult to attract the top players.
"But I think the club's history and size - we've just been on a tour which has seen us play in front of nearly a quarter of a million people in 10 days - means the pull is still here.
"We need to break back into the top four to get back the pull we had four or five years ago when we were comfortably in the Champions League year in, year out and challenging to win it.
"Players who come and get the club back into the Champions League will experience some of the biggest nights of their career, because playing European football in front of this crowd is different to any other."
Gerrard’s memorable strike against Olympiacos has gone down in Anfield history, not just for sending Liverpool through to the 2004/5 Champions League knock-out stages by the narrowest of margins but by acting as the catalyst for their Istanbul triumph at the end of the season.
Upon reflection, Gerrard is still surprised by what he has achieved throughout his illustrious career so far, and it is no surprise that he chose the Greek club as the opponents for his testimonial this weekend.
"It's a bit surreal. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise how well my career has gone at this club," said Gerrard, with the midfielder hoping to raise over £1million for his charitable foundation from tomorrow’s match and gala dinner afterwards.
"I'm starting to get nervous about the game. It's not about winning, it is because all the attention is on myself and I prefer it when it's on the whole team.
"It is still an important game because of the timing, with a couple of weeks to go to the season.
"I didn't want it to be a testimonial which was going to be low-tempo with all my friends and team-mates over the last 15 years coming back to play a part.
"I wanted it to be a serious game and it will be a serious contest."
When asked why he picked Olympiacos as opponents and not another team such as AC Milan, Manchester United or Everton which would all have their own personal meaning, he replied: “Because of the timing of the goal, how important it was and what happened further down the line in Istanbul, that is the reason we decided to go down the Olympiacos road.
"If we were to have gone out on that night, this goal would never get mentioned. But because we went on to win it, when I look back that goal became very important to the club and myself personally - it's certainly in my top three goals I've ever scored.
"They (Olympiacos) have been fantastic and have not asked for a penny to come over and play.
Gerrard celebrates the historic strike against Olympiakos
"We spoke to a few other clubs who were demanding fees, so I owe them a huge thank you as it means more money will go to children in this area.
"This club and the game have been superb to me, so the least I can do is support the area I come from.
"I know I am not going to change the world, but if I can give a little bit back it will make me feel proud."
Gerrard’s former colleagues Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler will appear at some point during the game to lighten the mood a little, and while Carragher, who retired at the end of last season, has gone into TV punditry with Sky, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hopes to see more of Fowler in and around the club in the foreseeable future.
"I love Robbie, he's a great guy and he's good to have around," Rodgers told liverpoolfc.tv.
"We're obviously looking to get him involved in the football club in terms of the coaching side which I think he's got a lot to offer.
"He never left the football club in maybe the way he wanted to so it's a nice opportunity for him to play in front of the crowd again and give the Kop a real round of applause."
Speaking about Carragher, Rodgers added: "They (Carragher and Gerrard) are very close friends and they've gone through many battles on the field together and obviously with Stevie out injured towards the end of last season they never got the chance to play together, so it will be a nice moment for them."
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