Steven Gerrard announced his international retirement on Monday and was met with a series of glowing messages of thanks and support from a number of journalists, current and former players and Liverpool fans.
It wasn’t all nice, however, with not insignificant numbers of social media warriors expressing relief that the Liverpool and England captain had decided to call it a day, while some cruel jokers even suggested he had already retired before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He was described as both a ‘great servant’ and a ‘flop’ on sides of the divide, but these rather miss the point about Gerrard’s failure to really recreate his Anfield form when wearing the Three Lions shirt – it’s because he is another Juan Sebastian Veron.
Before you call for the men in white coats for this particular GMS correspondent, consider a moment the following two statements without the prism of one’s individual allegiances:
“Steven Gerrard is one of the best players Liverpool have ever produced.”
And the next…
"Juan Sebastian Veron is considered one of the best Argentinean players of his generation.”
Admittedly this is a little circuitous, but the point is both statements can be considered at least generally accurate.
When it comes to England, Gerrard himself has admitted that he has failed to produce the kind of consistency that has made him the darling of the Kop. This is not because he is a poor player, but because the international stage was never the right fit for him.
Veron’s travails in the Premier League are a similar to those experienced by Gerrard for England. When Manchester United signed him for £28.1million from Lazio in 2001, the Argentine was expected to take the Premier League by storm, such was the reputation he had built in Serie A.
Although he was part of the squad that claimed the 2002-03 Premier League title, he was never able to truly shine when given opportunities. Of course, his incredible passing range and shooting meant there were flashes of genius in among the mediocrity.
It was the same for Gerrard; the smashing goal in the 5-1 dismantling of Germany in 2001 is probably the standout moment of his Three Lions career, though he did put in a handful of top class performances.
Veron was shipped out of Old Trafford to Chelsea in 2003 but there was no let up in the uninspiring performances and loan moves to Italy followed, where he won more trophies, before a permanent switch.
He was undoubtedly a supremely talented player and was able to showcase his best for sides in Serie A, where the matches are more tactical, a slower pace and gave him more time to dictate play.
Right player, wrong place
Gerrard is a master of chaos; his ability to turn defence into attack, with raking passes behind more accommodating defences or charges up the field were more suited to the harem-scarem Premier League of his prime. International football was slower, more ponderous and inherently more cautious – this did not suit him at all.
Some will argue that a series of very well paid managers could not get the best out of him, but they were never likely to get him playing his natural game consistently at World Cups or European Championships. Horses for courses, goes the saying – Veron and Gerrard were both thoroughbreds in their own right.