He might still be the captain and playing a lead role in Liverpool's early-season charge to the top of the Premier League table, but Steven Gerrard is already thinking ahead to when his playing days end.
In a recent interview, as reported on club's official website, Gerrard revealed his aspiration to manage and that taking over as Reds boss is his ultimate ambition.
I definitely see myself as a manager rather than a coach, but that could change. When you get to a certain age, my age, you need to start thinking seriously about a life after football. I am planning on doing my badges and qualifications over the next 12 months. The dream come true would be to manage Liverpool, when the Liverpool job becomes available.
His retirement is surely at least two, perhaps as many as four seasons off. But if he's already thinking ahead, what should be Gerrard’s plan if he wants the seat currently occupied by Brendan Rodgers?
Badges, Development and Choices
As the Reds' No. 8 is only starting to take his first steps, he will need to pass a series of courses, tests and practical examinations to progress up the ladder of coaching qualification.
He could begin in a familiar environment. Youth players at the Liverpool Academy would benefit from Gerrard's willingness to work at the club, if indeed he has the time to allocate training hours to the scheme.
He'll also need to firm up his initial preferences of whether to be a coach or a manager somewhere along the line. It won't strictly matter to him while he does his badges, but it can affect who he listens to or follows, what role he has in mind for the future and who he would like on his future staff.
If he shows an aptitude for coaching, there is every possibility he could take on a player-coach role in his final years at Anfield. As a senior member of the team in the starting XI every week, that won't be for a couple of years yet at least, but it would give Gerrard valuable exposure to leading a team as opposed to being part of one.
The transition is going to take some getting used to. He may see it as a downside to suddenly be coaching players who were his teammates only a couple of weeks previously and who he still has to play alongside.
On the other hand, he may prefer the familiarity, and see the comfort of the only regular training ground he has ever known as another reason to take the player-coach role.
Taking Note of the Best
As a player, Gerrard has been fortunate to work with some highly decorated managers during his career, most of whom have brought silverware to the table.
He should have been able to take something from them as to how he might approach games himself, were he to turn to management. Gerrard has been able to watch closely and decide whether he agreed with each different managerial approach to tactics, preparation, mentality and level of involvement.
Rafa Benitez brought innate tactical knowledge, never-ending depths of analysis and a relentless approach to improvement.
Gerard Houllier was a more paternal type of manager, favoured counter-attacking football and had strict rules on player behaviour.
Kenny Dalglish was less involved in practice sessions than Brendan Rodgers, letting his coaches direct day-to-day training.
Whichever way Gerrard chooses to operate, watching these managers—not to mention Sven Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and others at international level—will offer him a base template to grow from.
Honing his Skills—or Straight in at the Deep End?
And, when it comes down to the day that the unimaginable happens and Steven Gerrard retires, he will need to make a decision on what to do next.
He could opt to quietly build his experience and CV, perhaps taking a youth or first-team coaching role at another club, or an Academy position at Melwood with Liverpool. He could choose to follow former teammate Jamie Carragher and go into media work first, or another avenue entirely before returning to coaching.
But what seems most likely at this stage with Gerrard is that he might want to go straight for a senior management, or head coach, job at a club.
The Premier League is all he has ever known as a player, so the odds would be on his staying in England for his first job. But few top-flight clubs these days offer former players a direct route into management.
Gerrard may have good timing, or his name may appeal to some, but all in all it seems probable that he might have to drop a division or two to begin.
Liverpool and Gerrard
Could it happen? Could Gerrard manage Liverpool?
He's spent the best part of a decade and a half dragging the team around on the pitch, so would he prove a success directing from the sidelines? Enough of a success to warrant becoming Liverpool manager?
If he starts in the lower leagues, it could be five years or more before Gerrard appears in the Premier League to prove himself as a top young coach. Brendan Rodgers had only one season as a manager in the top flight before being appointed, so time in the league isn't necessarily a factor. But Rodgers started coaching much younger than Gerrard would.
On the other hand, a big early impact in the Premier League might be enough to convince people that Gerrard is simply destined for big success, whatever he does in football, and a dream reunion might not be quite so far-fetched as it seems.
But, first, that FA Level 1 badge.