Steven Gerrard has announced he is leaving LA Galaxy after 18 months in Major League Soccer.
The former England and Liverpool captain, 36, leaves the United States with much to ponder; does he call time on his playing career and move into coaching or will one club benefit from one last hurrah.
If it is the end for Gerrard as a player, he will look back on a career packed with incredible highs and lows.
Here, we look at the main ups and downs for one of the finest players of his generation.
DEBUT TO TREBLE IN THREE YEARS
Gerrard, who joined Liverpool’s academy at the age of nine, made his first senior appearance on November 29, 1998. Though he confessed to being “out of depth” in his early appearances, he established himself in a regular partnership alongside Jamie Redknapp in the 1999-2000 season, in which he scored his first goal in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday.
After struggling through a series of back and groin problems, Gerrard emerged as one of Europe’s finest young players in the 2000-01 campaign, in which he scored 10 goals to help Liverpool to a famous treble of the FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup – the first of several trophies.
GERMANY HUMBLING KICK-STARTS INTERNATIONAL CAREER
Gerrard only made four appearances for the England Under-21s before he earned his first senior cap, against Ukraine in May 2000. He was named in the squad for the European Championship that year, but managed only one appearance – in a 1-0 loss to Germany – as England exited at the group stage.
In September 2001, he got some measure of revenge over Germany. In a crucial World Cup qualifier in Munich, Gerrard blasted in his first international goal to put England 2-1 ahead just before half-time, and he set up Michael Owen for his hat-trick goal as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side romped to a 5-1 victory.
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, MILLENNIUM MAGIC
Gerrard took another stride into Anfield folklore in March 2003, when he opened the scoring with a deflected long-range strike in the League Cup final against Manchester United. A second goal from Owen secured the trophy at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff against Liverpool’s fierce rivals.
In October of that year, Gerrard Houllier appointed Gerrard as club captain, having been impressed by the leadership qualities on display despite him having only turned 23 five months previously.
Gerrard’s love affair with the big occasion – especially in Cardiff – once more shone through in 2006, when he dragged Liverpool from the brink of defeat to secure his second FA Cup triumph. Having equalised early in the second half only to see Paul Konchesky make it 3-2 to West Ham, Gerrard blasted home from 35 yards in injury time before going on to score in his side’s penalty shoot-out triumph.
THE MIRACLE OF ISTANBUL
Injury curtailed the start of the 2004-05 season for Gerrard, but he made a timely return against Olympiacos in November. With Liverpool needing a goal to seal their passage to the second round of the Champions League, Gerrard struck a sublime half-volley in the dying minutes to send the Kop into delirium.
That was but a taste of what was to come that season. Liverpool had battled their way to the final only to find themselves 3-0 down at half-time to AC Milan at the Ataturk Stadium. Gerrard gave his side a lifeline with a header, before creating space to allow Vladimir Smicer to score a second, and his driving run won the penalty from which Xabi Alonso equalised. Liverpool went on to win their fifth European title on penalties at the end of a match dubbed ‘The Miracle of Istanbul’, with Gerrard producing arguably the greatest performance of his career.
ENGLAND’S CENTURION SKIPPER
Gerrard was a cornerstone of the England team for a decade. He was a regular at Euro 2004 and finished as his country’s top scorer at the World Cup two years later, before he was made vice-captain under Steve McClaren during their ultimately dismal qualifying campaign for Euro 2008.
After helping England reach the World Cup in South Africa, and with Rio Ferdinand injured, Gerrard was made captain by Fabio Capello for the tournament, in which England exited in the round of 16 after being beaten 4-1 by Germany. Gerrard retained the armband under Roy Hodgson and captained England to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, where he was the only Three Lions player to be named in the team of the tournament.
In November, he joined a list of 10 England players to have reached 100 caps. He captained the team for a further two years before retiring after the 2014 World Cup, with 114 appearances and 24 goals to his name.
RED MIST RUINS REP
Gerrard has been sent off eight times in his career for club and country, and his first could scarcely have come at a worse moment. Then only 19, he came on as a substitute in the Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield only to be given a red card late on for a reckless challenge on striker Kevin Campbell. Everton won 1-0.
A two-footed tackle on Gary Naysmith in a 0-0 draw in 2002 sparked a bust-up between Liverpool and Everton players and earned Gerrard a retrospective three-game ban, even though he apologised for the incident after the match. At the end of that season, Gerrard saw red once again, picking up a second booking for a wild lunge on Graeme Le Saux as Liverpool lost 2-1 to Chelsea and consequently surrendered a Champions League spot to the Blues.
CHELSEA COURTSHIP ENDS IN CALAMITY
In the build-up to the 2003-04 season, Gerrard complained publicly about a perceived lack of progress at Liverpool and admitted that he was considering leaving Anfield. Chelsea, who had been taken over by billionaire Roman Abramovich the year before, were heavily linked with a bid for the player, though he ultimately stayed put to work under new head coach Rafael Benitez.
At the end of the following campaign, Liverpool led Chelsea 2-0 with 10 minutes left of the League Cup final only for Gerrard to turn a Paulo Ferreira free-kick into his own net, before Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman secured a 3-2 win for Jose Mourinho’s side. “There were Liverpool fans who probably thought I meant it at the time because I was linked with them,” Gerrard recounted.
The Chelsea question reared its head once more later that year. Despite having inspired Liverpool to a Champions League win, Gerrard turned down a contract offer and submitted a transfer request, only to reverse his decision the following day and reject the call of Stamford Bridge for the final time.
ENGLAND DAYS END IN IGNOMINY WITH WORLD CUP COLLAPSE
Gerrard’s long international career was rarely short of criticism, with several head coaches criticised for a failure to find a system that could accommodate him and Frank Lampard together at the heart of the midfield. However, after impressing at Euro 2012, there was some lingering hope that the experienced captain could inspire a young England team to greater feats at the World Cup in Brazil two years later.
Instead, it was dismal. Gerrard could do nothing to stop Italy beating England 2-1 in their opening group game, and the ball flicked off him and into the path of then Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez to grant Uruguay a victory by the same scoreline.
His substitute appearance at the end of the insipid 0-0 draw with Costa Rica – for which Frank Lampard had taken the armband – proved to be his last in an England shirt.
THE WORST TIME FOR A SLIP – BA NONE
For all his success, the one glaring absentee from Gerrard’s medal collection was one from the Premier League. In 2013-14, it looked as though he would finally get his hands on the famous trophy, as Liverpool played host to Mourinho’s Chelsea with three matches to go, knowing that three victories would guarantee an end to a 24-year wait for glory.
However, in first-half injury time, Gerrard slipped inside Liverpool’s half to allow Demba Ba to surge through on goal and put Chelsea ahead. Although Brendan Rodgers’ side piled on the pressure after the break, Willian struck a decisive second in the dying moments to seal the win for Chelsea and leave the title race out of Liverpool’s hands.
A 3-3 draw away to Crystal Palace a week later, in which they conceded three times in the final 11 minutes, saw Liverpool hand the title to Manchester City.
MANCHESTER UNITED MADNESS SOURS CURTAIN CALL
Having announced he would be joining LA Galaxy at the end of the 2014-15 season, Gerrard was determined to guide Liverpool back into the Champions League as a final act for his boyhood club. When they hosted Manchester United in March, they knew that a victory would take them above their bitter rivals and into the top four, with only eight games to play.
Gerrard started on the bench but, with Liverpool 1-0 down at half-time and in serious need of a lift, Rodgers turned to the skipper to provide one more inspirational turn at Anfield. He lasted just 38 seconds – a stamp on Ander Herrera earning him a straight red card. Juan Mata scored a second to earn a 2-1 win.
Gerrard – who apologised on camera after the match, although not to Herrera himself – was banned for the following game against Arsenal, which ended in a 4-1 defeat for Liverpool and effectively ended any lingering hopes of a top-four finish.
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