No fairytale farewell for Gerrard
No fairytale ending, but tears expected in Gerrard's Anfield finale
LIVERPOOL v CRYSTAL PALACE
(Tomorrow, 12.30am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Liverpool's longest goodbye has reached its final curtain.
In the early hours of tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Steven Gerrard will bring his Anfield love affair to a close. The outcome of the English Premier League match against Crystal Palace has already been rendered immaterial.
This was a day that few had previously envisaged would ever arrive - Gerrard and Liverpool were an enduring marriage that appeared destined to last until death do them part.
A lifetime of devotion will end in an amicable divorce next weekend, unceremoniously, at Stoke's Britannia Stadium and with it, Liverpool's diminishing local heartbeat will all but cease.
There will be no fairytale ending for the 34-year-old; no FA Cup final birthday appearance, no Champions League qualification and not even the crumb of comfort of a hollow victory over the age-old rivalries which have personified his 17-year career.
Beneath the plaudits and processions, he will harbour other regrets: About what has happened, what might have been and at the time lost, waiting too long for countless promises of a brighter tomorrow at Anfield.
Loyalty to Liverpool has proved a costly Achilles' heel. Offers of greater success elsewhere have regularly been forthcoming throughout his career.
Jose Mourinho tried to sign Gerrard, who he regards as a "dear enemy", while managing at Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea.
He was coveted, too, by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, where his idols Bryan Robson and Roy Keane both achieved legendary status.
Bayern Munich and AC Milan are just another two names from a Who's Who of European football that have sought his services in the past decade.
Spurning a move to Stamford Bridge in two consecutive summers, however, remains the great unanswered question of whether his heart was right to outweigh his head.
He will never know if his failed partnership with Frank Lampard for England would have borne fruit if honed at the club's Cobham training base on a daily basis.
Nor will he experience the sensation of lifting the one trophy that eluded him even at the peak of Liverpool's triumphs - the EPL title.
Forming a guard of honour for Chelsea before last weekend's clash between the sides was a stark reminder of how different it could all have been.
John Terry, seven months his junior, has won every major club honour with the newly-crowned EPL champions and enjoyed a renaissance this term as they romped to a first EPL title in five years.
Conversely, as Liverpool's wait for domestic success surpasses a quarter-century, Gerrard's influence has increasingly waned under Brendan Rodgers.
Restricted to a 20-minute cameo at the Santiago Bernabeu last November was an indignant finale for a player who sacrificed untold honours elsewhere in his desperation to lead Liverpool back to European football's promised land.
It will linger in his mind alongside his costly slip against Chelsea; a watershed moment in last year's EPL title race laced with schadenfreude.
So, too, will the rash sending-off against Manchester United in March within 43 seconds of entering the field.
As countless stars absconded from Anfield, he remained the admirable steward attempting to steer Liverpool back to its rightful place in spite of repeated pitfalls. That commitment to the cause remains largely unpaid.
He will doubtless have stared longingly at this week's Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, which pitted three of his former teammates - Luis Suarez and Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso - against each other at the Allianz Arena.
Even those that failed to replicate the heights of their Anfield heyday have been vindicated since leaving.
Fernando Torres yielded a paltry return of just 20 goals in 110 appearances for Chelsea, but was part of a side that won the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup within two seasons.
Gerrard, meanwhile, has been continually relied upon to pull Liverpool out of the mire with little reward.
There have been times when he was under-appreciated by the club he served since the age of eight.
Last summer, he announced his retirement from international football, relinquishing the England captaincy, in order to give his all for Liverpool.
That devotion was not reciprocated.
A lack of urgency surrounding his future has become a recurring narrative, with the Reds guilty of taking his unwavering loyalty for granted.
When the latest proposal eventually arrived, it was too late. It is this which prompted the parting of ways.
"He has been let down. He should have been used in a better capacity," says David Thompson, Gerrard's former Liverpool teammate and fellow youth-team graduate.
"I'm surprised there was no offer on the table earlier to keep him in some sort of role. I don't know what went on in the background but I'm just disappointed that the club never offered him something.
"When he goes, it's like the last bit of heart is going out the club."
Like a Paul McCartney concert, those attending tonight's penultimate leg of Gerrard's farewell tour will do so to relive the memories; to reminisce about the mop-haired youngster from Liverpool that went on to conquer the world.
They will remember the good times they enjoyed together - the single-handed fightback in Istanbul, the match-winning heroics at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, the piledriver into the Kop's net against Olympiakos and the goals against Everton, Manchester United et al.
Qualm will remain the great unspoken for all of Anfield's concerned parties.
- FA Cup: 2001, 2006
- League Cup: 2001, 2003, 2012
- Community Shield: 2006
- Champions League: 2005
- Uefa Cup: 2001
- Uefa Super Cup: 2001
- PFA Player of the Year: 2006
- PFA Young Player of the Year: 2001
- PFA Team of the Year: 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014
Makes senior Reds debut (above) aged 18 under Gerard Houllier, coming on as a substitute in a 2-0 win over Blackburn at Anfield.
Helps the Reds claim a treble — the League Cup, FA Cup and Uefa Cup with 10 goals. Named PFA Young Player of the Year.
Wins the European Super Cup as Liverpool beat Bayern Munich 3-2. Goes on to help the Reds finish second in the EPL.
Liverpool finish only fifth in the EPL, but Gerrard helps them win the League Cup by beating Man United 2-0 in the final.
Appointed Liverpool captain by Houllier in October, taking over from Sami Hyypia. Season ends trophyless and leads to Houllier’s departure.
Inspires the Reds to Champions League glory (above), coming back from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul.
Scores 23 goals, including two in FA Cup final win over West Ham (above). Named PFA Player of the Year.
Leads Liverpool to another Champions League final, after beating Chelsea in the semis, but it ends in defeat as Milan avenge 2005 loss.
Bags 21 goals as the Reds reach the Champions League semis, but lose to Chelsea this time.
Notches personal-best tally of 24 goals in a season, as the Reds finish second in the EPL. Claims Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award.
Scores 12 times in Benitez’s last term as the Reds finish seventh. Crash out at the Champions League group stages, but reach the Europa League semi-finals.
Scores hat-trick against Napoli in the Europa League, but the Reds, under Roy Hodgson and then Kenny Dalglish, finish sixth.
Liverpool finish eighth, but the Reds win the League Cup (above). Gerrard hits a hat-trick in a 3-0 EPL win over Everton.
Ends the season with no silverware under Brendan Rodgers as the Reds finish seventh, but signs a new contract extension.
A superb season as the Reds challenge for the EPL title, but his slip allows Demba Ba to score for Chelsea in a vital 2-0 win at Anfield. The Reds finish second.
Liverpool’s return to the Champions League ends at the group stage. Gerrard announces he will leave Anfield at the end of the season, describing it as ‘’toughest decision of my life’’.