The Captain Retires
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has announced his intention to retire from professional football effective immediately, after a season where he made only 3 starts in the Premier League and played 11 games in total.
The 39-year-old still had a year left on his playing contract but has decided to put an end to his long football career after being deemed surplus to requirements by Brendan Rodgers.
Gerrard signs out in style, having won the Champions League, the Capital One Cup, the Club World Cup, the Community Shield, as well as the Premier League title in his final season, despite making just 17 appearances in all competitions.
However, it is not the end of the veteran's love affair with Liverpool, as he has switched roles to take the reigns as manager of the Liverpool Under-21s, where he will be responsible for nurturing the club's young talents.
Gerrard has enjoyed a strong connection with Liverpool since his childhood days, having supported the club as a boy before going on to join it's youth ranks in 1987. His debut soon came in 1998 against Blackburn Rovers.
And in a career that lasted for 21 years, Gerrard made 593 league appearances for Liverpool and scored 132 goals. He is also the club's longest serving captain in history, having worn the captain's armband for 16 years since replacing Sami Hyypiä in 2003.
With Liverpool, he has won 25 trophies and also has plenty of notable personal achievements. In 2005, he placed third in the FIFA Ballon d'Or, as well as winning the PFA Player of the Year in 2006 and the FWA Footballer of the Year in 2009.
Steven Gerrard lifted his first European Cup in 2005 and would go on to win it three more times
"It was a difficult decision for me to make but I think I'm doing the right thing. The older generation has to move on to make room for the younger ones to grow and develop," said Gerrard, in an emotional press conference today. "21 years, it was 21 amazing years playing for Liverpool and it's 21 years that I will never, ever forget.
"There has been many ups and downs, mostly ups in recent years and we can still keep on rising. It's been a crazy few seasons and Brendan has really been working his magic. But, I would like to say that be it in good times or bad times, it felt great to be playing in this red jersey and the feeling of that is something I'm going to miss dearly.
"To put it simply, playing for Liverpool Football Club in these 21 years has been the best part of my life. Thank you to all the managers whom I've played under, the players I've played alongside, and most importantly, the fans."
Gerrard: Playing for Liverpool Football Club in these 21 years has been the best part of my life."
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher paid tribute to his former captain on Twitter, "Saddened to hear about Stevie's retirement but expected. Mr Liverpool through and through. Well done old friend on an amazing 21 years."
He was not the only one and Carra's words were echoed by both current and former Liverpool players.
: "I have never seen, and probably never will see, a player that defines Liverpool as much as Steven Gerrard. He is the face of the club and it's easy to see why. It's an honor to have been able to play alongside someone like him."
: "For me, he's the captain, not just any captain, but THE captain, the one who left the biggest impression on me in my whole career. For me, it was a pleasure to have him as a teammate and I enjoyed my time with him a lot."
: "He has always been a big presence both on and off the field, and he's going to be missed by both the club, the players and the fans. He may just be the best football player to have ever graced the Anfield pitch."
: "Ever since I arrived here at Liverpool he's been a massive influence and it definitely won't feel the same without him around us."
Rumors are rife as to who will replace Gerrard as club captain, and it's certainly a role that will take big shoes to fill.
Vice-captain Jordan Henderson is very much the natural choice and fans would be happy with the appointment considering the loyalty that the 29-year-old has displayed to the club, having been a Liverpool player for 8 years since signing on from Sunderland in 2011.
However, second vice-captain James Ward-Prowse could also step up. The 24-year-old has plenty of captaincy experience having taken the armband for almost the entirety of the 2017/18 season due to Henderson suffering from troublesome injuries then and Gerrard not being picked.
Other names being mentioned are star forward Mario Balotelli, full-back Nathaniel Clyne, and recent Golden Glove winner Jeronimo Rulli.