(Update: Gerrard retired from playing football on 24th November 2016)
Steven Gerrard will leave Liverpool FC at the end of the current season and join a team in the US league. The decision to leave is entirely financial: Liverpool, and any other European club, is unwilling to pay Gerrard the salary of a full-time professional in exchange for a few free kicks and penalties whereas several US clubs are willing to pay him hugely for his name, image and income-generating celebrity status, regardless of whether he is able to make a worthwhile contribution on the pitch. Thus, a sensible move for Gerrard to further enhance his pension plan.
At Liverpool, he is revered by the team’s fans. It would be churlish to mock this adoration because, over a long career, he has achieved a handful of noteworthy performances that have helped the team grasp a few cup successes. One has only to go back ten years for an outstanding contribution he made in Liverpool’s sole major success during his career, in the champions league. Quite rightly, primarily for his longevity, he is held in as high esteem at Liverpool as, say, Matt Le Tissier is at Southampton, Shola Ameobi is at Newcastle or Tony Hibbert is at Everton.
One of Gerrard’s most admirable qualities as a footballer he is perseverance in the face of failure. No matter how many fifty-yard humps went way beyond the striker Gerrard kept doing it until one landed in the vicinity of a team mate. No matter how many seasons passed by with Liverpool unable to recapture the table-topping successes of previous decades Gerrard continued to express hope that he could one day hold the premier league trophy aloft. No matter how many times England limped around directionlessly under his alleged leadership as captain Gerrard continued to pull pseudo-passionate faces and clench his fist.
Contributions to the game
Gerrard helped to develop many of the necessary attributes required for the modern English footballer’s image. On the field Gerrard always knew when a TV camera was likely to be zoomed-in on his face and so he had a stock angry or passionate look ready to spuriously emphasise his “leadership” and off the field in interviews he was relentless in his self-presentation as a serious motivated thoughtful person. It cannot be disputed that both of the above acts were successful because his absence of on-field leadership has received little criticism and, equally, most observers, including media, ex-players and fans, have been deterred from realising that Gerrard is a bit thick. One of his most enduring gifts to English football is his evolution of the dive. The theatrical dives accompanied by grasping of a body part and screams have never been wholly successful in England, but Gerrard kept the dive as simple as possible: Both feet raised close to the defender and flumping onto the ground. It worked well.
Although Gerrard played like an old-fashioned footballer, his consciousness of image has been very modern, and so he is likely to fit in well in the USA. He could become as big an ambassador for English football in the US as Jason Statham is for English acting or as James Corden is for English comedy.