With Steven Gerrard admitting that he could extend his career with a team other than Liverpool it seems like we could finally be witnessing the end of the one-club-man.
Over the past twenty five years Gerrard has become as much a part of Liverpool Football Club as their legendary Anfield stadium and his loss would surely be felt just as keenly by fans of the club. Should Liverpool choose not to renew Gerrard’s contract he would certainly be a loss for his, not inconsiderable, footballing talent but perhaps more so for the inspirational leadership he has provided both on and off the pitch for so long.
Footballing ramifications aside, both in regard to Gerrard’s footballing talent and leadership skills, there is the question of whether allowing one of the club’s greatest servants to merely slip away could deal a hammer blow to Rodgers’ relationship with Liverpool fans.
Already under fire for selecting an under strength team against Real Madrid in the Champions League, in the eyes of some tarnishing Liverpool’s European reputation and tradition, and for a poor showing so far in the Premier League, Rodgers may wish to keep Gerrard on board as part of a short-term strategy to placate some of his more vocal detractors.
So far this season Brendan Rodgers’ side have looked devoid of exactly the kind of on-field leadership Gerrard has given his team for so many years.
This is sure to colour Rodgers’ decision whether or not to renew Gerrard’s contract with no obvious candidate amongst the current Liverpool squad to step up to the plate; Gerrard has to be, at the very least,one of the first considerations for Rodgers.
This will be the first thing on Rodgers’ mind if he is forced to look for a replacement for Liverpool’s inspirational captain.
Another worry for Rodgers will be replacing Gerrard in a playing context. Having dramatically altered the position Gerrard plays in order to find a place for the ageing midfielder in his evolving team, Rodgers still faces the problem of replacing the rampaging attacking performances that made Gerrard a mainstay of Liverpool teams for the past two decades.
Fortunately for Rodgers and Liverpool, the emergence of Jordan Henderson as a truly top class Premiership player appears to have plugged this particular gap in the side.
Whilst initially maligned as an expensive flop, Henderson has grown into his role in the Liverpool team and his performances have earned him a place in the England national side with the estimated £16 million price tag paid to Sunderland in 2011 now looking like a sound investment.
Henderson has also recently been awarded the vice-captaincy at Liverpool at the relatively young age of 24, perhaps signalling Rodgers’ intent to mould him into Gerrard’s natural successor.
The prospect of replacing Gerrard’s attacking contribution has also been eased by the meteoric rise of attacking midfielder Raheem Sterling. The 19 year old lit up the Premiership with a series of scintillating displays for Liverpool last season and was rewarded with a regular playing spot in Roy Hodgson’s England side.
Despite playing alongside inter- national stars such as controversial maverick Luis Suarez, Sterling was one of the leading lights in a Liverpool team that came agonisingly close to a first Premiership title.
However, Sterling was not the only rising star in amongst Liverpool’s rich supply of midfield talent. Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho showed his class throughout the season, demonstrating the kind of flair, invention and incisive passing that led Liverpool to pay a reported £8.5 million for his services.
Coutinho’s continued development could replace the kind of majestic passing Gerrard has so long provided from central midfield and that has been so crucial to Liverpool’s successes throughout the last twenty years.
The solution to the Gerrard dilemma is not an easy for one for Brendan Rodgers. A one-club player like Gerrard is a rarity in the modern day, a player of Gerrard’s world class ability even rarer.
Steven Gerrard is not a man who can be replaced overnight, but the emerging crop of young, talented players at Liverpool should provide hope to the club’s fans and to their beleaguered manager that even should Gerrard leave the club there is a bright future to look forward to.