England captain Steven Gerrard has announced his retirement from international football after 14 years with the Three Lions.
The announcement comes almost a month after England's poor World Cup performance in Brazil which saw them knocked out at the group stage.
The news was announced Monday via a statement on the FA website in which the 34-year-old reflected on a lengthy international career:
I have enjoyed every minute of representing my country and it is a sad day for me knowing that I won’t pull on the England shirt again. However, I do look forward to continuing my strong relationship with The FA and helping out in any way I can going forward. ...
... This has been a very difficult decision, one of the toughest I’ve had to make in my career. I have agonised over this since coming back from Brazil and have spoken to family, friends and people close to me in the game before coming to this point. ...
... To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool Football Club I believe this is the right decision, and having Champions League football back at Anfield is another big factor in my decision.
Indeed, Liverpool just missed out on their first title in the English top flight since 1990 as they came second to Manchester City in the Premier League. As a result, they return to the Champions League for the first time since 2009-10.
As Gerrard states, he intends to continue a non-playing relationship with the FA and implied he has long-term plans for his England role, as per the national side's Twitter feed:
England boss Roy Hodgson had previously stated his desire for the Liverpool midfielder to continue in his role as captain until the 2016 European Championship and expressed his disappointment with Gerrard's decision.
"While I’m disappointed in the decision, I can entirely understand Steven’s situation and can have no complaints given the incredible service he has given to his country," Hodgson said, as per the FA.
Gerrard made his debut for England in 2000 at Wembley against Ukraine and has since accumulated 114 caps for his country, scoring 21 times.
He captained England on 38 occasions—including at the last two World Cups—and although he often took criticism for representing a generation of players who underperformed for their country, he regularly performed to a high standard, as per the BBC's Phil McNulty:
Those who questioned Gerrard's contribution to England never, ever came up with a better alternative. Always worthy of his place.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) July 21, 2014
The question now is who will replace him for the long term, both positionally in the centre of midfield and as captain. Inevitably, the likes of Reds teammate Jordan Henderson and Arsenal's Jack Wilshere will be looked to as replacements for Hodgson's side in the deep-lying midfield role.
Meanwhile, as Hodgson shapes a younger-looking side, the vastly experienced Wayne Rooney is likely to be genuinely considered to take over the captain's role, as will Joe Hart and Gary Cahill.