Hold your hands up. How many stars are there in the Premier League? Or, put another way, how many would rest easily in the world eleven you’re always dreaming up? Thought so. Raheem Sterling wouldn’t make the bench on that list yet, I bet. But he has caused all kinds of debate about his worth to his club, Liverpool, and any potential suitors his agent cares to flutter his eyelids in the direction of.
Arsenal, City, Chelsea. United? No chance. The only player transfers ever likely to materialise between Old Trafford and Anfield across the M62, will be the players coaches on match days . But he wants to make it absolutely clear that this is not just about money, a lot of money. £100,000-a-week, kind of money. No sir. This is about winning trophies, he insisted. As if Brendan Rogers’ ambition is not to win trophies.
Steven Gerrard (now there’s a name that would have been on most of your lists) captain fantastic for Liverpool for more than a decade knows that too. And to be fair, he’s won a few with his one and only club, the one he adores. But now, in the final throes of his last ever season with Liverpool, the one trophy that matters above all else, The Premier League, will never be, and no such medal will ever adorn his marble mantelpiece at home.
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Gerrard was linked with moves to Chelsea on more than one occasion, during the Special One’s first reign at the Blues. He always resisted, loyally, telling the world he could achieve his ultimate ambition with the Merseysiders. Some insiders cruelly suggested that his rebuttal of Jose Mourinho’s overtures held more to the murmurings of discontent within his hometown from certain sections of its society unable to countenance a move to such a high profile rival. When rumours of Sir Alex Ferguson making the most tentative of inquiries surfaced that section of society got louder, we are led to believe.
The result was that Gerrard never left and became, rightly, a living legend on the red half of Merseyside. He will forever more be associated with the club’s greatest ever moment in their premier League history; inspiring the brilliant penalty shootout victory against Milan, after overturning a half time three nil deficit, in Istanbul, ten years ago, and lifting the Champions league trophy in the process.
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But Gerrard will know that isn’t enough. Sure, they got one over the Mancs. Five European cups designated to the record books. United are currently on three, and it will rankle with them. But Liverpool consistently failed where it mattered most. The Premier League trophy is the benchmark of a team’s worth. Finish at the top of the league at the end of the season and there are no serious arguments from serious people.
You are the best. And United, under Sir Alex Ferguson, did that too many times for Gerard and Liverpool’s liking. They did it, too, largely with a pool of talent honed from their academy. The famous class of ’92 became household names for United, and England.
They, like Gerrard, had the club in their blood. Gary Neville, more than any other student from that class, epitomised the passion, the work ethic, and a genuine love for a team whom he idolised as child. It will probably never happen again. Modern academies are cosmopolitan places. Many young hopefuls come from all corners of Europe, and while the best of them will be ambitious and keen to succeed, they won’t necessarily hold the clubs they represent with anywhere near the same level of reverence that Gary Neville or Steven Gerrard have, and will so continue to do.
So, now Steven Gerrard is walking away to a lucrative working holiday in the USA, he might cast a backwards glance at Raheem Sterling, who will probably leave the club not long after if the current noises coming from he and his camp are anything to go by, and wonder if he should have done the same a few years ago. Had he done so he would surely have at least one premier League (arguably many more) title to his name.
Of course, he could never have done that, any more than Neville could have walked away from Old Trafford, until he was no longer required, where he won eight league titles.
Gerrard was one of Liverpool's own, a local boy done good, with the river Mersey in his veins. Sterling came from QPR, and has no such conviction or sense of belonging. So, why should he not look for another adventure while he is still young enough, and wanted enough? It is hard to argue that Gerrard didn't deserve a league winner’s medal. One can only guess what he makes of the Sterling saga, and if he secretly wishes him well in taking an opportunity he felt he could not.