Pepe Reina is convinced that Steven Gerrard has already earned his place in Liverpool’s history.

 

"He is a legend of this club and he is still hungry for titles," the Spaniard said after Gerrard had bagged a hat-trick in the Merseyside derby to hand his side a much needed win on Tuesday.

 

Former Anfield hero Phil Neal goes as far to suggest Gerrard would have strolled into the record-breaking Reds sides of the late 70s to mid 80s.

 

“Bob Paisley put some great sides together but I think Stevie would have got into all of them,” Neal told Goal.com.

 

“I don’t know who you would have dropped but there would have been a place in the side for him.”

 

Current manager Kenny Dalglish is generally regarded as the club’s greatest player of all time, but Neal believes that Gerrard possesses something even ‘the King’ doesn’t.

 

“The one thing that Kenny Dalglish couldn’t do was play in numerous positions,” Neal explained.

 

“Kenny was in a class of his own in a specific role – as a striker – whilst I think that Stevie G possesses an all-round ability and the knowledge and everything else that he has been through in football would allow him to play anywhere on the park.”

 

Of course it is difficult, if not impossible, to rank side by side players of different eras when they game has changed so dramatically over the past 40 or so years.

 

The speed of the modern game, particularly in the Premier League, means that a new set of demands are placed on players and even the standard of pitches in the modern era make it a different ball games for modern-day players.

 

“I think the biggest change over the last decade has been the improvement in playing surfaces,” Liverpool’s great nemesis Sir Alex Ferguson once said. “They’re fantastic now and, given the technological advances in that area, playing on a poor pitch has become very unusual.

 

“And the other big change has been in sports science, which has progressed at an astonishing rate”

 

So while it is impossible to directly compare Gerrard to his illustrious forefathers, there is one telling aspect that could help define his greatness, and it is one he would rather avoid.

Back in 2008/09 was the closest Liverpool have come to winning the league in Gerrard’s career.

 

Level on points with Manchester United going into the final month of that season, Liverpool would ultimately wind up finishing four points behind them as their best chance to break their great rivals almost unbreakable monopoly on the Premier League trophy slipped by.

 

Since then, Gerrard and his team-mates have got no closer to ending search for a league title which stretches back to 1990.

 

Jose Mourinho, the man in charge of the Chelsea side that won back to back league titles while Gerrard was at his genuine peak - and in fact tried to sign the Liverpool skipper - highlighted the difference between being a ‘tournament team’ (as Liverpool under Rafa Benitez often were accused of being) and a league winning side.

 

“All football supporters know, a championship-winning side is so very different to one that can win the Champions League,” the now Real Madrid manager said back in 2008.

 

“Teams are separated in Champions League finals and semi-finals by details. Details like disputed goals and penalties. To win a championship is about more than details.”

 

Since Gerrard emerged at Liverpool, he has never been part of a truly great side.

 

Previous eras in Liverpool's history have swept all before them, claiming European and league trophies. Paisley’s and Bill Shankley’s teams could stake a claim to be the finest group to ever emerge from these isles.

 

Of course, Gerrard has much more than his fair share of winners medals sitting in his trophy cabinet at home but not the one he craves so dearly, a league title.

 

While it is one aspect that may haunt him now his career on Merseyside looks like coming to an end without out, it at least provides a context for him to be compared amongst the greatest - he has achieved almost everything without being part of a great side capable of winning the title.

 

He was part of some very good sides; with the Spanish invasion of the mid 2000’s that saw Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Luis Garcia and of course Fernando Torres joined Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in forming the core of a side there was plenty of talent around him.

 

But they still weren’t good enough to deliver the title that would have defined the era and now they are rebuilding once more, and by the time a title challenge comes again Gerrard will likely be long gone.

 

It is despite this that Gerrard has emerged as a true great. Heroic individual performances from the talismanic have helped Liverpool add to their trophy cabinet on more than one occasion.

 

In cases like the 2006 F.A Cup final and the 2005 Champions League final, there is little doubt that had he been absent, Liverpool wouldn’t have won either.

 

It is games like these, where he wasn’t part of a special team, that he stood head and shoulders above the rest to put forward his case as a club icon.

 

If league’s are won only by great teams then he never stood a chance of winning a Premier League trophy but he has shone and delivered some truly great moments to his boyhood club.

 

Dalglish, Rush, and Keegan all claimed their place in history in association with winners medals and the very best of times. Gerrard hasn’t had that luxury.

 

He has however, had the opportunity to be the leader, to step follow and ensure the everyone followed his example when the club couldn't boast talents comparable to the past. His goals, natural ability and collection of medals help him stand out, but most of all he has the adoration of the club’s fans, who are the ultimate deciders as to who makes it into the very exclusive hall of fame. His individual efforts define his greatness.

Topics:
#Premier League
#UEFA Champions League
#Steven Gerrard
#Liverpool
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