Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is among the best deep-lying midfielders in the world, according to manager Brendan Rodgers.
Gerrard, 33, was moved into a deeper role in January, and he has helped his side into a two-point lead atop of the Premier League table.
Rodgers said Gerrard’s all-round qualities meant he deserved to be considered one of the best ‘controlling’ players in the world.
“There are not many players who can do what he can – be one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe and then switch to be up there as arguably the best controlling player,” the Northern Irishman said.
“You look at the holding players in European football, players with top teams and top clubs, and I wouldn’t swap him for any of them because of what he can give the club.
“He’s a playmaker, unique. His intelligence and reading of the game allows him to orchestrate the game with those playmaking skills from that position.
“But he can also defend, tackle. And what he probably doesn’t get enough credit for as well is his reading of the game situations.”
Gerrard’s role as part of a defensive midfield duo or at the base of a diamond has given the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling more freedom in the attacking third.
Rodgers said he always expected Gerrard to play the role, but felt he needed time to develop his understanding of the position.
“I look at how we can maximise all the players and get the most out of them, and from the first day I came in here, I told him that was the role I envisaged him playing,” Rodgers said.
“With Steven, he’s not just going to take what you say, there has to be a rationale behind it – a reason as to why.
“He probably needed time – which he did – to go away and think about it, study it and talk it through before he could go out there.
“Steven is not going to come in blind and not want to contribute to team. That was very important for us – the timing. Thankfully it’s worked well.”