A counter-argument may be a day away in Paris but the Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish embellished the tributes to Steven Gerrard yesterday when he insisted that, whatever Thierry Henry or Ronaldinho produce in the European Cup final, they will not surpass the England international as the most influential footballer at work today.
Gerrard's performance against West Ham United in Cardiff established the 25-year-old as the only Liverpool player to score in the final of the European Cup, FA Cup, Uefa Cup and League Cup. Though his impressive CV still lacks a league championship medal, Dalglish believes the Anfield captain's ability to cajole his team-mates from the brink of defeat against Milan last season, against Alan Pardew's team on Saturday and his influence on securing Champions' League qualification under Gérard Houllier has established Gerrard as the dominant individual at club level.
"Steven has done more for Liverpool in the past few seasons than any other player," said Dalglish. "Never mind Ronaldinho for Barcelona or Thierry Henry for Arsenal, Steven has done more for his team and contributed more than anyone else. When you have got fantastic ability and you ally that with his courage and belief, that is one hell of an ingredient.
"You talk about leading by example but that on Saturday was over and above the call of duty. And really he's such a young guy. It's unbelievable."
For the first time in three years Gerrard will enjoy a summer without the emotional turmoil of a possible move to Chelsea and is now free to concentrate on England's World Cup campaign. "That is good for him and he will improve," said Dalglish. The Liverpool chairman David Moores said: "He's a talisman, you could never replace him. So thank Christ it was all sorted out with him last year."
Gerrard credits a refusal to dwell on past achievements for Liverpool's recent cup successes and in keeping with that philosophy began a holiday yesterday by looking ahead to an improved Premiership challenge from Rafael Benitez's team next season. "We could have lived off the European Cup win this season, but everyone can see how hungry we are for more," the midfielder said. "We know we're capable of going very close to the title next season and that's going to be the target. The more trophies like this you win, the more you want. We'll be giving it everything we've got to win the title next season."
Liverpool's prospects will improve significantly if they can secure an investment package that increases both Benitez's transfer budget and their prospects of building a new stadium on Stanley Park. A consortium of European financial institutions, fronted by the former Oxford United chairman Robin Herd, met to formalise the latest proposals for the club yesterday and will present their plans at a scheduled meeting of the Anfield board on Thursday.