Who has been the best midfielder in the history of the Premier League? Man Utd fans will pick Scholes. Chelsea fans will pick Lampard and Liverpool fans will say Steven Gerrard. Neutrals will vary between the three and the argument will go on and on in the pub and between the pundits on TV for years.
As a Liverpool fan I’m going to say Gerrard, of course I am, but I honestly believe there’s no contest.
Don’t take my word for it. Ask Peter Crouch, who’s played with just about everyone. Crouchy devotes a whole chapter to Steven Gerrard in his recent book ‘How to be a Footballer’. Here’s what he had to say:
And the skills Gerrard had! People would say to me, Xabi Alonso is the best passer of a football I’ve ever seen. I’d say, yeah, but Stevie is better. They’d tell me that Claude Makélélé was the best tackler. Yeah, but Stevie’s better. Lampard is the best goal-scoring midfielder. Yup, Stevie’s on a par with him. He could play right-back and left-back. He could play centre midfield, he could play off the striker. He could play centre-forward and he could dominate totally from right midfield. It’s only when you train with a player that you realise quite how good they are. On match-day you would see Thierry Henry and Gianfranco Zola producing little miracles. With Gerrard they were a daily occurrence. He was by far the best player in England training, and that includes David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen. I never trained with Paul Scholes; our times in the national set-up did not overlap. But the Chelsea lads would say the same thing: Gerrard is the most naturally gifted player we’ve worked with.
The documentary Make Us Dream (available on Amazon Prime) about Stevie’s career is good, but it doesn’t really cover anything new.
If like me, you’ve read his two autobiographies, watched the documentary about him when he released his first autobiography, and the many since that have been on LFC TV, and also watched countless highlights packages on YouTube put together by fans, you will be familiar with the script.
The standard highlights and lowlights:
- Banging goals in from 30 yards
- Tough tackling
- The great goals against Manchester United
- That goal against Olympiakos that meant Liverpool qualified out of the group stage of the Champions League (the year they won it)
- That goal in the Champions League final that inspired the famous comeback
- Signing for Chelsea, and then not signing for Chelsea
- The FA Cup Final screamer against West Ham
- ‘We Go Again’ at the end of the game where Liverpool beat Manchester City near the end of the 2013/14 season when we were challenging for the title
- That slip against Chelsea two games later that led to Liverpool conceding a goal (people forget that Liverpool lost that game 0-2, not 0-1).
What all these compilations of Stevie’s career miss, and what’s hard to purvey unless you’ve sat and watched every game, is the sheer number of games when he carried Liverpool. All those seasons when we just qualified for the Champions League, or managed to win a trophy even though we were nowhere to be seen in the Premier League title race, it was Stevie who made the difference more times than not. He was a playmaker and a match winner. He drove the side forward. He brought the game to life when we were struggling. He kept us in games we seemed destined to lose. Owen, Torres, Suarez – all fantastic strikers during the Gerrard era – and all say that they wouldn’t have scored so many goals without Stevie offering the supply.
We now watch from a distance to see how his new career pans out as a manager at Rangers. Waiting, and hoping, for that day in a few years, after Klopp has finally ended the Premier League drought and built a new dynasty, when Stevie takes the reins as Liverpool manager.