While there are a myriad of iconic moments throughout Steven Gerrard’s storied Liverpool career, perhaps no run of games sum up his greatness than the club’s famous Champions League campaign in 2004/05.
Of course, the manner in which Liverpool shocked AC Milan in the final is one of the greatest footballing stories of all time, although that was only the crescendo of what was pretty much a one-man orchestral masterclass.
Indeed, a (presumably) Liverpool fan recently put together a compilation of Gerrard’s exploits during the run to the ultimate glory on May 25th, 2005.
At the time, Rafa Benitez’s overhaul had yet to really get underway.
Michael Owen had gone without a big-name replacement and, while Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia had joined, the biggest signings of the Benitez era (Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano) had yet to arrive.
Clearly, this was from a vintage Liverpool team. The Harry Kewell experiment had been stunted by injuries (as was the case in the Istanbul final) and Djimi Traore was still the starting left-back.
None of that mattered to Gerrard, however.
Benitez, clearly, was at his best during the mid-2000s as the kind of pragmatic football both he and Jose Mourinho championed dominated the top level of the game. Still, talented as the Spaniard was on the touchline, he could not have brought the top prize in Europe back to Anfield without the Herculean efforts of his captain.
Therein lies the great juxtaposition of this Liverpool side. The cold, calculated Benitez and the Roy of the Rovers Gerrard, taking games by the scruff of the neck when perhaps his manager might have preferred a more cautious approach.
In fact, his record of two goals and two assists in the eight games (in which he played) it took to win the prize don’t even tell the whole story. The fact Liverpool won only twice during the five games he missed might indeed tell us more.
The goal against Olympiakos is another moment often talked about but it was Gerrard’s brace in the qualifying round against Grazer AK 1902 that set Liverpool on their way and his general performance was simply on another level.
Able to drop deep and dictate play, he still had the kind of engine to break through the lines and be the focal point of an attack the club would soon improve on.
Gerrard played in better Liverpool teams. Whether or not he ever played better for Liverpool is up for debate, albeit that’s a very high standard from which to compare.