Matthew Schattner explains why Steven Gerrard returning to Liverpool might not be the best idea.
Steven Gerrard closed the book on his Major League Soccer career this week, announcing his intentions to leave the LA Galaxy, but not necessarily committing to an end to his playing career. Amid the deluge of rumours is a move back to Liverpool, but Gerrard and Reds manager Jürgen Klopp would be wise to keep their distance for the sake of Liverpool’s title ambitions and Gerrard’s personal legacy.
“It’s certainly not the end of me in football terms,” Gerrard stated in announcing his decision to leave the Galaxy. “I’ve got options on the pitch, off the pitch and I’ve got a bit of thinking to do over the next two, three weeks.”
This ambiguity has led to a number of rumours, with both Celtic and Newcastle linked with moves for the former England international. Gerrard has also been linked with moves back to Anfield in some capacity, especially in light of studying for his UEFA A coaching licence.
Retired Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson has advocated for Gerrard to return to Liverpool in either a coaching or playing role, stating that the midfielder could “definitely play in this Liverpool team.”
“He would be brilliant to have around the club because he would be in awe of Klopp, so that is just not a worry,” Lawrenson added. “I am sure Klopp would love it too – the only effects would be positive.”
Lawrenson’s view is overly-romantic and naive. While Klopp stated at the end of October that “Steven Gerrard – and this will be a really big surprise – is always so welcome at Liverpool FC,” the Reds manager had previously ruled out a return for Gerrard as a player in January.
There is no room in the current Liverpool side for Gerrard on the pitch. Klopp’s team is known for its energy, pressing and fluidity. Attributes that age has stolen from the 36-year old midfielder. In his two years with the LA Galaxy, Gerrard only played in 36 games and contributed five goals, a spell marred by injury and disappointing performances for all of the hype initially generated. This is not a player that will be displacing Liverpool’s wealth of talented midfield options in Henderson, Can, Lallana or Wijnaldum, and riding the bench for the remainder of the season would be a dispiriting career-end for player and fans alike.
On the coaching side, Lawrenson is convinced that Klopp would love Gerrard’s presence and that Gerrard would be in awe of the German, as he stated, “He [Gerrard] would not be seen as a threat by Jurgen Klopp if he was on the coaching staff.”
Aside from the fact that Klopp and Gerrard are seemingly respectable and cordial individuals, this conjecture has no base in the complex realities of squad dynamics.
Klopp has faced zero issue in ensuring that his players are devoted to his leadership and directives. Even amid rumoured links to Barcelona, star player Philippe Coutinho has credited Klopp with Liverpool’s recent success and pledged his loyalty to the manager, stating, “He gives confidence to the players. I think today we believe more in our own potential and that has made us better on the field.”
Gerrard never played under Klopp, so their relationship is an unknown factor. Change is not something that would benefit an exciting Liverpool side that is currently top of the table and has scored a league-leading 30 goals, with players that are fully loyal to their manager. There is no reason to risk upsetting this situation with the addition of player from a bygone Liverpool era.
Above all else, a reunion with Liverpool could only damage Gerrard’s standing as a club legend. Liverpool are currently top of the Premier League table and have a realistic chance of winning the trophy. Gerrard’s most recent impact on Liverpool’s title chances was an infamous slip at the end of the 2013/14 season that cost the Reds the title.
Should Gerrard return and Liverpool’s form begin to drop, Gerrard’s legacy will once again suffer the blow to costing the club a long-awaited title. Gerrard is a Liverpool legend, and staying away from Anfield is the best way to maintain that status.