They say the devil's greatest trick was convincing the world he didn't exist. On that note, Steven Gerrard's greatest trick has been convincing the world he is a great captain of a football team. Gerrard pulled off such a good con job that he even became the English captain for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Yesterday I read an article about how Steven Gerrard is the greatest captain in the history of the Premier League. The article, written by a Liverpool fan, openly states that the amount of silverware a captain won with his club was not being considered as a factor in deciding who was the best. This makes sense because err...well, because he's a Liverpool fan and Liverpool hasn't won anything with Gerrard as their captain.
First of all, how can you debate who is the best captain of anything and not include what they've won? After all, being a captain isn't about being the best player on the field. It's about being a leader and leading your team to victory.
Despite claiming that the amount of silverware was not a factor in picking who was the best captain in Premier League history, the article then goes on to list all of the trophies Gerrard has won in his career. So for comparison's sake, I will play by the same rules.
Since becoming captain of Liverpool in 2003, Steven Gerrard has won the FA Cup (2006), the Community Shield (2006), the Champions League (2005) and the UEFA Super Cup (2005). During his time as captain Gerrard has finished as high as second in the Premier League once (2009).
As captain of Manchester United between the years 1997 and 2005, Roy Keane won the FA Cup three times and made the final one other time, the Community Shield three times, and the Champions League (1999, though he was suspended for the final, he was influential in getting United there).
Already the advantage is with Keane, and that is before we mention that as captain, Keane led United to the Premier League title five times!
If you're keeping score, the only thing Gerrard has won that Keane didn't was the UEFA Super Cup—a one-match final that no one cares about. How do I know? When Keane made his only UEFA Super Cup appearance the match was played before only 14,000 spectators.
Not to be outdone, Keane led United to the Intercontinental Cup title that season, while Gerrard led Liverpool to a runner-up position at the 2005 Club World Cup.
An argument being made is that Keane had a better team around him, while Gerrard was all that Liverpool had. That is true, but that doesn't make Gerrard a better captain, it just makes him the best player on Liverpool.
People also like to bring up matches that Gerrard single-handedly won for Liverpool, many of which were when Liverpool had to come from behind. They claim it shows his desire and how he never gave up.
Desire and never giving up are great qualities, but just because Gerrard was the one that scored all the goals doesn't make him the best captain. There were several games that Cristiano Ronaldo won for United single-handedly, but that's because he was a great player. No one was ever saying we must give him the armband for that.
A captain leads his team to victory, and will do anything not to let them lose. The year Liverpool won the Champions League they also finished fifth in the league. If it weren't for a rule change they wouldn't have even made the Champions League the following season. When United won the Champions League, Keane also led them to Premier League and FA Cup triumphs that same season.
Overall, what a captain is supposed to do is make his teammates better. Roy Keane was phenomenal at this. Do you think Paul Scholes would have been able to push up and score all those goals if he didn't have Roy Keane covering behind him?
Meanwhile in Liverpool, Steven Gerrard is doing the exact opposite of making his teammates better. In fact, his teammates are statistically better without him! Between 2001-2010, Gerrard missed 85 games for Liverpool. Liverpool won 59 percent of the games he missed.
Over the same period of time, Gerrard played in 476 games, Liverpool won just 55 percent of those games. When Gerrard played, Liverpool conceded 0.91 goals a game; when he didn't play, that number dropped to 0.86. How can you be a great captain if your team is better without you?
When Gerrard plays, Liverpool play a completely different style of play, constantly passing the ball to Gerrard and letting him do something. When he doesn't play, they play much more of a team game.
Roy Keane played a team game, playing within the team's style of play making his teammates better. That makes him a great captain.
The same cannot be said of Steven Gerrard, whose teammates play better without him on the pitch.
If you want to debate which Premier League captains were the best players, then I suppose you could have yourself a nice Steven Gerrard vs. Cesc Fabregas debate.
But if you want to debate who the best captain of the Premier League was, it's very hard for that conversation to include anyone other then Keane, Patrick Vieira, Alan Shearer and John Terry.