He might be the skipper of their fiercest rivals, but Manchester United fan Rasheed can't help but to hold immense respect for Liverpool's own Captain Marvel, Steven Gerrard.
By Rasheed Abu Bakar
As the final whistle blew at Anfield the Sunday before last, cameras cut to various players shaking hands. A small portion of Manchester United fans who had made the daunting trip to Liverpool had their arms in the air, and jubilation and relief across their faces.
In the middle of the pitch, near the centre circle, Liverpool captain Steven Gerard cut a forlorn figure, squatting and staring at the Kop end. His brows narrowed, and his eyes fixed on the dispersing crowd.
As a Manchester United fan, Liverpool is one of the clubs I wish the worst on. I don’t want to see them win any game and I hope they get relegated – this sounds harsh, but I’m sure I can find hundreds of other Liverpool fans who would wish the same on United.
But this Gerrard guy... he’s different, and I’ve got an immense respect for this player - even after he ran to the camera to kiss the lens after scoring against United at Old Trafford a few years back; yes, even after that.
When Roy Keane was unceremoniously given his marching orders by Alex Ferguson in 2005, a small part of me had hoped United make an audacious bid for the Liverpool captain. Gerrard, in my opinion - and I know many will agree with me - would have been the perfect replacement for 'Keano'. He is robust, gets the job done and most importantly, he has proven to be an excellent leader season after season.
At Liverpool, the club he’s supported as a boy, current manager Brendan Rodgers is the sixth different manager Gerrard has worked with, and all six have had great respect for the midfielder.
Primarily a central midfielder, Gerrard has also been used on the right flank, second striker and a holding midfielder. He’s that sort of player you can count on to give 110 per cent, regardless of the score-line or the opposition.
Sugar daddies like Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and Khaldoon Al Mubarak at Manchester City have certainly changed the face of the Premier League. Apart from the ridiculous transfer fees, hefty salary packages are waved in front of transfer targets to make sure they sign on the dotted line.
Talk of loyalty seems to have been swept under the carpet, and I see fewer footballers kissing the club’s badge after scoring a goal. To be fair, these players have to look out for themselves too – they have mouths to feed and if an opportunity arises, it’s hard to say no. Furthermore, you can’t play football forever.
In 2004, Chelsea came knocking with a £20m bid for Gerrard at a time when the midfielder publicly declared his disappointment at the club’s progress over the years. He could have signed for Chelsea where he would be guaranteed a handsome salary package, Champions League football and a team strong enough to fight for the trophy he has never won before - the Premier League.
But Gerrard listened to his heart, and continued to captain Liverpool.
This got me thinking: he’s a top professional footballer, but is he as ambitious? Or is he extremely loyal to the club he loves and firmly believe (or hope?) that one day Liverpool will notch title number 19?
It’s hard to think that loyalty is solely keeping him at the club. Surely Gerrard is ambitious enough to want to win the Premier League at least once in his career. A certain Liverpool legend named Michael Owen, who was Gerrard’s teammate at Liverpool for most of his career, left to ply his trade overseas but finally came back to England and won the Premier League, albeit in a United jersey. Gerrard reminds me of a gifted student in a public school who can’t let go of his close friends (no offense to folks from public school, I was from one too!).
At 32, Gerrard is running out of time. At the start of every season, you hear Liverpool fans saying “this is our year”, and I’m sure Gerrard feels that way too – perhaps not as confident, but I bet deep down, he’s got a burning desire to lift the Premier League trophy and make sure it is indeed Liverpool’s year.
As much as I will salivate to see Gerrard in a United jersey partnering Paul Scholes or Shinji Kagawa in central midfield, I highly doubt it will ever happen. I do hope though, that this underachieving midfielder (in my opinion), feels contented and would have found his ‘quantum of solace’ when he finally hangs up his boots.