Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has achieved legendary status at Anfield during his 14 years as a professional with the club.
Loyal to the cause, the England international has won two FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA Cup and, most importantly, a Champions League.
The 31-year-old became captain on Merseyside in October 2003, and has gone on to resemble everything Liverpool could ever want. Drive, determination and quality to name just three of his key attributes.
It could all have been so different had Gerrard moved to Chelsea in the summer of 2005. After lifting the European Cup with his boyhood club, the midfielder was on the cusp of leaving and the Reds were resigned to losing their star.
"Sadly, Steven has told us this afternoon that he will not accept our offer of an improved and extended contract because he wants to leave Liverpool," read a club statement in July.
However, the skipper made a dramatic u-turn, penning a four-year contract extension just a week later, thus ending the Blues’ pursuit of the player with immediate affect.
And, it appeared to be the right decision for Gerrard in the immediate, leading the Reds to FA Cup glory at the Millennium Stadium with an inspirational performance against West Ham United that season.
But, success has steadily dried up since that moment, with a Champions League final defeat against AC Milan the following year the closest the club came to major success again. In terms of silverware, this season’s Carling Cup victory was the first bit of glory in five years.
More worryingly, Liverpool have gradually slid down the Premier League table, and after finishing second in the 2008-09 season, the Reds have endured seventh and sixth-placed finishes in the last two campaigns. It doesn’t look like it will improve this season either.
Injuries to Gerrard haven’t helped Liverpool’s credentials in terms of a challenge for the title – or even a top four finish – but their inability to replace the talismanic midfielder during his long absences has served as a major problem.
And, with a visit to Europe’s top table not on the agenda once again next term, is it time for Gerrard to consider his future at Liverpool?
Closing on 600 total appearances for the club, the major ingredient missing from the player’s CV is a domestic title. Winning that under Kenny Dalglish now appears unlikely in the coming seasons.
So, who would take Gerrard? At 31, he isn’t a purchase for the future, and the injury track record leaves questions over how much a team could expect to use the 90-cap international in a season.
That said, he has proved his big-game temperament on a number of occasions, and could add an extra something to Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea – the three teams most likely to challenge for the title in the next two seasons if Roman Abramovich decides it's time to invest again. Whether United fans would take to Gerrard is also another issue entirely.
But, the Reds wouldn’t want to sell their star player, meaning a substantial figure would have to be paid to lure Gerrard away from the club his spent his entire life with. That makes the player a significant gamble.
The player’s own personal commitments to Liverpool have to be taken into account as well. Gerrard recently penned a new long-term contract at the club, and has agreed to take on an ambassadorial role at the end of his career.
It’s a move that would seem to end any possibility of a move away from the club, and in fairness to the player, who can blame him.
Gerrard has built-up an unbelievable rapport with the Kopites, and it’s up for debate as to whether he’d lose his legendary status if he left the club. He’d have the respect of the fans, but maybe wouldn’t be the darling of the club if he joined a perceived rival.
How about a future abroad? Jose Mourinho was the man who wanted Gerrard at Chelsea – would he still be keen on taking the player to Real Madrid. Few English players have left the country to further their career abroad – perhaps time in Spain could add to his global appeal.
But, in answer to the initial question, the answer is probably no. Gerrard appears to have Liverpool in his blood, and apart from that brief moment in 2005, has never considered anything other than playing for the club.
The two go hand-in-hand together, and have done for over a decade now. And, as Liverpool would point out, any potential resurgence would come with Gerrard in the midfield driving seat. They need their man, and luckily he loves them.