Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has made it clear to Steven Gerrard he should consider his future with England after the World Cup, as the challenges of the Champions League face the Anfield club next term.
Michael Scully of the Mirror writes that Rodgers has been vocal in his assessment of Gerrard's international commitments ahead of the Brazil World Cup, where the midfielder will skipper a youthful England side.
Scully quotes Rodgers saying:
I just think he’ll need to assess things after Brazil, as he’ll be 34 then.
He’s been a brilliant captain for me, a great leader, a brilliant man. He’ll arrive at the Champions League next season as one of the play-makers of the tournament. His condition is terrific. He’s in every day like clockwork, he eats the right foods, body weight right on the money.
Next season, there will be a big demand. If he comes and asks that, I’ll give an opinion on it [but] I think it’s a decision he has to make. He’s a very clear vision of the game, and what he wants to do for Liverpool. He loves playing for England. He’ll go and concentrate on England and we’ll see what happens after that.
Rodgers' words are no surprise as he looks to preserve the maximum amount of playing time that Gerrard can offer him. A European campaign for England will add days away from Liverpool's training camp and will affect the rest time he has between his commitments for the Reds.
The legendary midfielder has had a wonderful season for Liverpool, almost leading the club to their first domestic league championship in over two decades.
Gerrard hit an impressive 13 goals and provided 13 assists from the centre of the park in the Premier League, per WhoScored.com, but his fatal mistake against Chelsea allowed the title to cruelly slip through the Merseyside club's fingers.
This led Roy Curtis of the Sunday World to heavily criticise Gerrard, saying: "Second-best in England this season? He wasn’t even remotely close to being second best at his own club. In truth, he ranked somewhere between the fourth and eighth most valuable player at Liverpool."
But Gerrard will be central to Liverpool's plans in Europe next season and it will be Rodgers' job to keep him as fresh as possible. Excluding cup games, Gerrard played in 34 league fixtures last season, per Squawka, and the lack of overloading on him was hugely beneficial to the team.
A successful Champions League run could see the England skipper tire towards the back end of the year, compromising Liverpool's position in the run-in.
If Liverpool lose Luis Suarez over the summer then Gerrard's role in the team becomes even more important, in terms of leadership.
If he was to call time on his England career it would allow Liverpool to close ranks and keep the player's attention fully on their schedule.
Gerrard is important to England, but the country now has a stock of young midfielders who can take England forward.
The axis of Gerrard and Frank Lampard has not been successful during England's "Golden Generation" and maybe the time has come to hand the baton over to a new breed.