As the tributes pour in following the retirement of Steven Gerrard from professional football after a glittering career in the game the question will be asked, has Gerrard missed out on an even better career with the decisions he made during his Anfield stay?
Speaking to The Guardian in January 2015, then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed his biggest regret in football was not being able to convince Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard to sign for the Blues in 2005.
“He [Gerrard] is a historical player for Liverpool, a historical player for the Premier League and an opponent I have always admired and respected.
“We did everything to try to sign him and it was almost there. I was dreaming of Claude Makélélé, Gerrard and Frank Lampard in midfield.
“We were playing in a proper triangle without a No10 and playing Maka in front of the defenders. Me, Mr Abramovich and Peter Kenyon at that time, we dreamed of that.
“His people were open to him joining a top side like Chelsea. But to me personally he never said he would come. Never. He [Gerrard] was always a red and I think the decision was right.”
While Mourinho claims Gerrard never said he wanted to leave the club he dreamed of playing for as a child, the thought must have crossed his mind. Mourinho feels his decision was correct, yet Gerrard must have since wondered, what if?
As he settles into his new life as a retired footballer he will forever be held in high regard by the Kop and will no doubt one day have a statue unveiled outside the famous Anfield – forever cementing his place in Liverpool folklore.
Let’s not forget Gerrard has had an incredible footballing career at Liverpool – it’s not every day a player gets to lift the Champions League trophy aloft as captain of their hometown club. That famous night in Istanbul will forever live long in the memory of Gerrard, as will the goal that broke West Ham hearts in the 2006 FA Cup final.
However, the thought of that potential summer switch to Chelsea in 2005 will haunt the former captain.
Could he have really gone to Chelsea and broken Liverpool hearts? Fernando Torres did it a few years later and the reaction was bad enough, imagine if a hometown icon had done so?
While it is admirable Gerrard chose to stay at his beloved club, he missed out on winning the ultimate prize in English football – the Premier League.
Looking back at the period after Gerrard turned down the advances of Chelsea, the ex-England captain missed out on being part of the Blues sides that won three Premier League titles, a Champions League, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Europa League. With Gerrard in that side even more success could have been a real possibility.
Perhaps Liverpool winning the Champions League in 2005 was the worst thing that could have happened to Gerrard that summer in the sense it gave the midfielder false hope that something was happening at the club and perhaps a domestic title was not far off. In reality Liverpool were no match for the side he rejected.
Winning the title at Chelsea would be special, but winning it for Liverpool was the dream. That dream nearly became a reality in 2014, but for a slip and the form of Dwight Gayle, who wrecked any hopes Gerrard had of lifting the only trophy that eluded him.
Had he claimed that title in 2014 it would have ended at talk of regrets in his career, he would have won the lot with the club he loves.
However, the doubt will also be there as the curtain closes on a hugely successful career. Many say it is admirable that players stay at one club their whole career. Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville are just a few who have done so, yet they were collecting medals year in, year out for the most part. Had they not, they might have thought of pastures new.
Perhaps Gerrard denied himself the opportunity to explore other avenues in a case of his heart ruling his head, and while he retires a legend in every sense of the word the doubt will always remain.
Loyalty is a rare thing in football and is all well and good, but regret lasts forever.
Damien McEvoy Pundit Arena
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