Think Michael Jordan leaving the Chicago Bulls or Joe Montana saying goodbye to San Francisco or more recently, Paul Pierce wearing a different jersey than the Celtics. Some players are forever going to be linked with one and only one team, even if they don’t spend their entire career there.
This season in the Premier League we have already seen a Chelsea legend, the clubs greatest ever goal scorer, play for another EPL team wearing a different shade of blue. For many, it is still strange to see Frank Lampard wear a Manchester City shirt.
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On Thursday afternoon, Liverpool confirmed that their captain Steven Gerrard will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of this season.
Gerrard was born in Merseyside and began his youth career with the club when he was just nine years old. Liverpool and Steven Gerrard are as synonymous with each other as bees and honey or spaghetti and meatballs. Gerrard signed his first professional contract with the club in 1997 and has played at Anfield his entire career.
Now after 17 years with one of the most popular clubs in the world, Gerrard is down to his final half season as a Red.
With this announcement, two questions immediately came to my mind. First, how much does this impact Liverpool this season and in the future? And second, where might Gerrard end up?
First, how much of an impact will this have on Liverpool Football Club?
The sad news is that the only impact the departure of Gerrard may have is a positive one for his current club. Gerrard is a completely different player from last year to this year. His entire demeanor and drive to win appears to have been deflated when his boyhood club failed to win their first ever EPL title last season.
Gerrard looks slow. He looks depressed. And worst of all, he looks ready for this season to be over.
On December 29th, LFC dominated Swansea City 4-1 in what was without question their best performance of the season. Just three days later, the Reds gave up a 2-0 lead to Leicester City who within two minutes scored two goals to equalize at Anfield.
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What was the difference from the first match the second?
For starters, Brendan Rodgers chose to leave Gerrard out of the starting XI against the Swans and the side looked quicker and more precise. On New Year’s Day against the club at the bottom of the table, even though Gerrard scored both goals (both penalties) Liverpool looked like they were the club fighting off relegation, not the Foxes from Leicester.
There is no question that both Steven Gerrard personally and Liverpool as a whole have struggled this season and are far from the club they were 12 months ago. But the sad truth might be that Liverpool may actually be better off with Stevie G out of the lineup.
My second thought was now that we know where Gerrard won’t be next season, where might he end up? One thing we do know for sure, Gerrard won’t be making a move to another Premier League side.
When announcing his intention for leaving Liverpool, Gerrard made it clear that he will never face off against his current club.
"“I’m going to carry on playing and although I can’t confirm at this stage where that will be, I can say it will be somewhere that means I won’t be playing for a competing club and will not therefore be lining up against Liverpool — that is something I could never contemplate.”"
So where will he finish off his football career?
Of course when a major star has announced he is leaving his current club, MLS fans perk up and start hoping he may make his way to America. In this case, I believe MLS fans may actually have good reason to get excited.
I am not an MLS expert and I can’t comment on all the ins and outs of what team has the right to claim him and where he may actually end up. But two teams quickly come to mind when I think about where he may play next season. First things first, he will not end up at NYCFC simply to be loaned out back to Manchester City.
But could he end up at the other New York club?
The New York Red Bulls will be looking to replace their star, Thierry Henry, who left this offseason to become an EPL commentator for Sky Sports. The Red Bulls have already included Gerrard on their Discovery List which means they have the first rights to signing him.
But this does not simply mean Gerrard will automatically become a Red Bull. There is another high-profile club who also recently lost an important piece of their team and has historically been known for acquiring big name stars.
According to ESPNFC’s Jeff Carlisle, Gerrard is one of the LA Galaxy’s targets after the EPL season is completed. If reports are correct and Gerrard was included on the Red Bulls discovery list, Steven Gerrard could still end up with the Galaxy or another MLS squad if they are able to acquire his rights from New York.
The acquisition of Gerrard to either the Red Bulls or Galaxy would be huge for those clubs, who are hoping to avoid a digression after their successful campaigns in 2014.
No one knows quite yet where he will end up and MLS is not the only possible landing point, but my early hunch is that when the dust settles, Gerrard will be hoping to gain his first ever domestic title with the defending Champions, LA Galaxy.
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