Brendan Rodgers’ expectation that Steven Gerrard will retire from international football after next summer’s World Cup won’t come as a huge shock, but is the Liverpool boss hinting at the imminent end of Gerrard’s club career too?
The main purpose of Rodgers’ comments at his press conference, quoted by the Guardian, ahead of this Saturday’s game against Fulham was to urge Roy Hodgson to rest Gerrard from the forthcoming England internationals.
I think it [resting Gerrard] is something that Roy has looked at for these games but Steven is a real talisman for the group. He is real leader for the team and everyone there. Whether he plays in the two friendlies or not is another matter. There are absolutely times when you can rest him and I think that is important for him.
With increasing impetus being put on the younger England players with a long-term solution being sought by the Football Association, it would come as no surprise if Gerrard did hang up his boots on his international career next year.
Gerrard will be 34 by the time the World Cup comes about, and having started all 10 of Liverpool’s opening Premier League fixtures, it would appear he’ll be off the back of another busy season with his club.
Rodgers is right. There are times when it is important to rest Gerrard, especially if his career is to be extended as long as possible.
Alex Ferguson became the master of extending the careers of his prodigies. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes’ playing time gradually decreased once they hit their early 30s.
The lower amount of physically demanding Premier League and European football allowed Giggs to continue playing at 39-years-old and Scholes played at the top level until the age of 38.
Now Rodgers must follow suit and wrap Gerrard in the same cotton wool Ferguson did with Giggs and Scholes.
He has made a start by dropping Gerrard back to a deeper position, sitting in front of the defence without the energy-zapping demands of pushing high up to support the strikers.
The next stage will be for Liverpool to let go of this overreliance of “Captain Fantastic”. It’s too much to expect a player of 33 years to play every league and cup game into his late 30s.
Much has been made about the under-performance of Gerrard and his central midfield partner Lucas Leiva this season, with a new defensive midfielder surely on Rodgers’ January shopping list.
Rodgers must take his own prediction that Gerrard needs more rest and use it to help further the skipper’s playing days.
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