Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, will leave this summer with his reputation secured as one of the best players in the club’s history – but he knows that will count for nothing if he wants to return in an official capacity.
Gerrard plays at Anfield for the final time today, against Crystal Palace, before his move to Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer, but questions have already been asked about when he will be back.
There is the potential for him to return on loan during Major League Soccer’s close-season next autumn, but more likely is a role on the coaching staff once his playing days are over.
He has already had conversations with chairman Tom Werner and manager Brendan Rodgers about his longer-term thinking but Gerrard, in keeping with the attitude he has had throughout his playing career, is only concerned with being able to make a difference.
Who could replace Steven Gerrard at Liverpool?
Who could replace Steven Gerrard at Liverpool?
1/5 Ross Barkley
It is unthinkable that Barkley could quit Everton and move across Stanley Park to the Toffees' arch-rivals, and the Blues would certainly never consider selling him to them. Such a scenario probably belongs in the realms of fantasy but, nevertheless, Barkley would actually be a fine replacement for Gerrard. Since breaking into the Everton team and earning England recognition, the 21-year-old has shown he has the potential to reach the top. He is possibly the best English box-to-box midfielder to emerge since Gerrard.
2/5 Paul Pogba
Also possibly unrealistic given that the Frenchman is rated in the £50million bracket and Liverpool - despite receiving such fees for players - have never seriously threatened to pay at that level. Since leaving Manchester United for Juventus, the 21-year-old has established himself as one of the best young midfielders in Europe. He is often linked with a return to England, but usually with the likes of United or Chelsea.
3/5 Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Liverpool made serious attempts to sign the Armenian in the summer of 2013 but ultimately lost out to Borussia Dortmund. Since then the 25-year-old's star has fallen slightly with Dortmund struggling in the Bundesliga. If he were to become available again, Rodgers could revive his interest.
4/5 Miralem Pjanic
The Bosnia international only signed a new contract with Roma 12 months ago but has been linked with a move away since the start of this season. Liverpool are among a number of clubs reportedly interested in the 25-year-old, who would command a fee upwards of £25million. Pjanic is not a prolific goalscorer from midfield - he has scored five, with nine assists in the current league campaign - but would add a much-needed touch of quality and experience.
5/5 Andrea Pirlo
The Italian maestro is out of contract in the summer, but it seems unlikely that the Italian would want to take on the fast-paced challenge of the Premier League at 35. Pirlo has been linked with a move to MLS, which seems a lot more likely, as he would earn more and play at a lower standard in the US.
“I’ve certainly got ambitions to stay in the game, I’m currently taking my Uefa coaching badges and trying to progress up that ladder,” he said. “But I think to take a position or role at this football club first of all you have to be good enough.
“You never take a role here on reputation or name; the demands and the expectations at this football club are so high I think you’d be very naive and stupid to take a role just because you’re Steven Gerrard or because you’ve had a good career on the pitch.”
The Crystal Palace manager, Alan Pardew, has first-hand experience of Gerrard’s ability, when the Liverpool man’s long-range strike denied his West Ham side in the 2006 FA Cup final.
“I heard he said his best goal was the cup final goal against West Ham, for the equaliser,” said Pardew. “Nigel Reo-Coker just dropped off him at the death, and Steven smashed it into the bottom corner.
“He’s done that consistently throughout his career, come up with an inspirational moment for Liverpool, and that’s why he’s loved – and that’s why he has that tremendous mystique to his playing career.
“He came up and consoled me after the cup final rather than celebrate, so that just shows the measure of the man.”
Pardew added that his winger, Jason Puncheon, has signed a four-year contract extension with the club and spoke of the importance of him staying on as a positive influence to the academy players at Crystal Palace.
He said: “You musn’t underestimate the influence he has over young players here. Our academy, and I don’t have a problem saying it, is 80 per cent black. We need some black players here setting the right example.
“And Jason, he’s fantastic, and they need to look up to him and see that you can reach the heights of the Premier League here.”Reuse content