Steven Gerrard can't be considered Liverpool's greatest ever player

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Steven Gerrard looks set to make his 700th Liverpool appearance in tonight's FA Cup fourth round replay against Bolton Wanderers, and for that the inspirational skipper should be unreservedly praised for reaching a landmark that only two other players in the club's entire history have achieved.

However, as is often the way when notable milestones are made in professional football, it prompts a flurry of fervent tributes and passionate testimonials that are almost always overstated and in some instances can be inaccurate.

Gerrard is a prime example of a player that is eulogised to the point of exaggeration by a large portion of Reds fans, who claim the 34-year-old midfielder is the greatest individual to have ever represented their illustrious club.

But, how can you call a captain that's failed to win the domestic league title even once in his 17-year career the best that there's ever been? Particularly after following in the footsteps of other Merseyside icons like Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, John Barnes, Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush and Alan Hansen to name just a few.

The obsequious fawning over this modern day legend - who is without doubt one of the finest footballers to grace the Premier League era - must stop, before the lines between admiration for a loyal one-club servant and what truly makes an all-time great are blurred beyond the point of identification.

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That might come across as a little harsh on Gerrard, who of course has won everything else there is to win in the domestic game, with two FA Cups, three League Cups, the UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup and of course the UEFA Champions League to his name.

The 'Miracle of Istanbul' in 2005 will probably go down as the former England captain's career highlight, as Liverpool recovered from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties and secure the club's first European Cup in 20 years.

As the main catalyst behind the Reds' comeback that night, the match probably best sums up the driving force that Gerrard has been for Liverpool over the past two decades. He's been the one constant that supporters - and all of the club's managers during that period - have been able to hang their hopes on through the good times and the bad.

Brendan Rodgers believes Gerrard could be the last player to reach 700 appearances for Liverpool, and admitted in an interview with The Guardian last week that he still holds regrets over his impending departure to Major League Soccer this summer.


"Very much so," he said. "I made it clear to Steven I wanted him to stay for as long as I am here but it wasn't to be. He's had a tough decision to make as much about life as football.

"It's an incredible achievement [reaching 700 appearances] and I'm not sure it will happen again. It will take some achievement by any player to do that again.

"His life and journey here have been remarkable and you see how committed and focused he still is. It is absolutely incredible and there are more appearances to come."

With a transfer to Los Angeles Galaxy on the horizon upon the expiry of his contract at the end of the season, the FA Cup will represent Gerrard's best chance of lifting one final trophy with his boyhood club, although the Reds do have a two-legged Europa League clash against Besiktas to decide who advances to the last 16 of that second tier tournament later this month.

Too little, too late

The Wembley final in May will be played on Gerrard's 35th birthday, and would represent a fitting finale for a dedicated disciple of the Liverpool way, who has had to settle for three finishes as Premier League runners-up without ever getting his hands on that prestigious domestic crown.

That incentive will be fresh in Gerrard's mind when he runs out at the Macron Stadium on Wednesday evening, after successfully recovering from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of Saturday's 2-0 victory over West Ham United, not the copious amounts of poppycock compliments that will predictably be sent his way.

He knows better than anyone that a sentimental appearance, or success at another showpiece FA Cup final will not strengthen his application as an all-time Liverpool great, especially after missing the best opportunity to fill that void in his trophy cabinet last season.

With the help of former talisman - and another fans' favourite - Luis Suarez, the Reds pushed Manchester City all the way in the 2013/14 Premier League title race, until Gerrard's infamous slip against Chelsea resulted in a defeat that put enough light between Liverpool and the reigning champions.

And, after a disastrous start to the current campaign that ended the club's title hopes by mid-September, Gerrard realised he would have to settle for a similar status to fellow long-term servants Ian Callaghan (857 appearances) and Jamie Carragher (737 appearances), who are celebrated for their steadfast devotion to the Liverpool cause rather than what they actually achieved during their respective careers.

It's unfortunate that Gerrard couldn't emulate Messrs Dalglish, Keegan, Rush, Barnes, Souness or Hansen, but he can leave with his head held high knowing that he gave his all trying, and there's certainly no shame in that.

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