Steven Gerrard is arguably the best player in Liverpool’s history.
It’s a toss-up between him and the legendary Sir Kenny Dalglish, who Gerrard believes is the greatest player Anfield has ever seen.
He revealed this (and much, more more) in a fascinating one-hour long episode of Gary Neville’s brilliant Sky Sports’ show Soccerbox – and we’ve picked out the best bits.
Gerrard speaks openly and honestly about a variety of topics from his outstanding career, including his relationship with Rafa Benitez, his thoughts on Fernando Torres and, yes, *that* slip against Chelsea in 2014.
It’s well worth a watch – if only to look back at his greatest goals – but, just in case you can’t, here are the best quotes…
On his relationship with Rafa Benitez
“Very respectful but I was coming off the back of a manager like [Gerard] Houllier who was like a father figure. He’d speak to me every day, put an arm around me. His man-management to me was really loving.
“I then went into one of my first meetings with Rafa, came out of it and thought ‘he’s not having me this fella’. I felt unloved from that moment really. It was more of a cold relationship. He provoked me a lot and pick on things that I maybe needed to improve on. He never really praised me. I think it took me a while to get used to that. Maybe my insecurities and maybe my emotions used to think he didn’t like me, where he was just driving me in a different way.
“Looking back at it now, he got the best out of me – and that was probably the best way to do it, so great management. But at the time my insecurities made me feel unloved a bit. He definitely took my game to the next level.”
It’s interesting that Gerrard wasn’t convinced Benitez rated him at the start of their working relationship. It seems Rafa is a colder manager than many football fans might realise.
On Rafa’s ‘facts’ interview
In January 2009, Benitez famously unleashed a furious outburst at Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson – and Gerrard admits he thought it was a big mistake.
“From a player’s point of view when I saw the interview and I was sitting there at home just thinking ‘why? Why do we need all the attention to be around an interview that wasn’t necessary?’
“That’s what I was feeling at the time. It was uncomfortable. I think it added a bit of pressure to us as well. It was the timing of it. What was the need?”
Rafa was the Greatest of all time for his 'Facts' rant man, saying what everyone was thinking about United,Fergie and Old Trafford. Can't believe Gerrard backed Fergie ahead of him, had the Unites whole of England on lock ffs. Football peaked in the 2000s. Rivalries>>>> pic.twitter.com/cuaqZZNB4v— Test Cricket info/ Sebastian Telfair (@countrackuIa) December 9, 2018
On Fernando Torres at Liverpool
“He wasn’t someone I’d socialise with or was that close with friends-wise. Just speaking to him in the dressing room, I knew exactly what he wanted. As soon as I got my head up I knew where he’d be, what type of runs he’d make and going back to Rafa’s style, if there was space behind teams because we were compact, it was perfect – it just worked.
“He was phenomenal for Liverpool. He would win games on his own. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were known to be the two best centre-halves in the league, and Torres was the only person that could destroy both of them on his own.”
On Fernando Torres at Chelsea
“When I used to watch him for Chelsea afterwards, sometimes I’d shake my head in disbelief because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“I think at Liverpool, he walked into a team and a club where it’s all about building around the No. 9 and the fans adored him. Everything we done from a tactical point of view was all about setting him free.
“If I got into the right-hand side, it’d be cross early for Torres. If I got into the No. 10 position, I’d turn and slide him in. Everyone knew Fernando was the top man and made him feel like the top man, so his confidence was sky high.
“I think at Chelsea he’s got into a dressing room full of superstars and just been another number – and I think that had a big effect.”
On kissing the camera after scoring at Old Trafford
Gerrard says he didn’t know the camera was there, adding: “It was just a bit of luck. I was taking loads of stick [from United fans], so I thought I’d milk this one!”
On THAT slip against Chelsea
“I think it was very cruel. I still struggle to get my head around that one. It felt different that year. There was a belief and the way the fans were acting and stuff that it was our year.
“Certainly me I was very anxious about it, I wasn’t sleeping right, probably watching a little more than I should have been and I just got a feeling off Mourinho that he was going to do something wildly different – and I don’t think we prepared for that. Because of the form we were in, it was almost like ‘bring anyone on’.
“That affected me right through the summer. Still to this day, it has an effect now. It still dwindles. It makes me more hungry and driven from a manager point of view, for sure. But away from the manager side of it, I still have moments to this day. I think I’ll have them for the rest of my life.”
That’s quite sad to hear, but not surprising. Liverpool came agonisingly close to ending their long wait for the league title in the 2013/14 season and Gerrard’s slip proved so costly.
On Liverpool regularly selling their best players
“You feel like you’re getting close and then one of your top players goes, you think ‘that could set us back three or four years’. It was frustrating.
“Early on it was [Steve] McManaman, then it was Michael Owen, later on we lost Torres, Xabi Alonso and [Luis] Suarez. You get excited and feel like you’re playing in a top team that’s getting closer and closer… and then a massive piece of the jigsaw is taken away. It’s a killer.”
On the best player he ever played with
“Suarez. I would prefer to play with Torres because I think he complimented my game more, because he runs in behind more. But if you’re talking about a player who can do everything – occupy a back four himself, win you any football match at any given time and an all-rounder, I’d say Suarez is better than Torres.”
On Gary Neville asking if he’d be interested in joining United
Revealing he asked Gerrard about the possibility of joining Man Utd while on England duty, Neville said: “I thought… it’d be difficult. I thought you give me more than 10 seconds, though! I always remember you saying to me… ‘do you want me to get shot!’
Gerrard continues: “I remember saying to you, ‘Gaz, do you really know what you’re saying to me here?’
“It took me aback, to be honest. When you left [my hotel room], I was like: ‘did that really just happen?’
“That is something that was just impossible. Even if Liverpool were in a relegation fight or if I was in a different league, there’s just no possible way it could happen.”
On almost joining Chelsea
“I regret the little bit of flirting back then and how that all blew up. The fact is I didn’t know whether I was coming or going with Rafa at the time. Rafa was having conversations with me like ‘I know your agent is talking to Real Madrid and Chelsea’. I got a paranoid feeling at the time that Rafa would have taken money to try and build Liverpool on.
“Chelsea bid £37.5 million. At the time, massive amounts of dough but what would you get for that now?”
Neville, much to Gerrard’s amusement, replied: “Half a Fred!”
Gary Neville on Soccerbox asking Steven Gerrard about that bid by Chelsea in 2005:— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) December 28, 2019
🗣 Neville: "How much was the bid?"
🗣 Gerrard: "£37.5m. What would you get for that now?"
🗣 Neville: "Half of Fred!" pic.twitter.com/PWM5KblSPK
Continuing on the subject of almost joining Chelsea, Gerrard adds: “[Jose] Mourinho was a massive part of that. A lack of maturity on my part allowed me to think about it and flirt with that idea a bit. But now I have no regrets at all because Liverpool are the club I love – and that’s the way it should be.”