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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Gerrard: we've fallen behind

Liverpool 'not the same' without Champions League; Club struggling to attract top players

Steven Gerrard pictured in Bangkok this week
Steven Gerrard pictured in Bangkok this week

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has made it his personal goal to restore the allure of the club by getting them back into the Champions League.

Striker Luis Suarez's desire to leave Anfield in order to play in Europe's premier club competition and the Reds' failure to sign Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan last month have only served to highlight the problems the club face.

Gerrard has told the Uruguay international he wants him to stay despite two bids from Arsenal, but admits until they regain their top-four place they will always have to fight such battles.

"I think the only person who knows what's happening is Luis himself," said the England captain.

"But I think everyone knows how highly I rate him and how much I want him to stay, and what we can achieve this season basically depends on whether he stays or goes.

"While I've still got a couple of years left – and maybe a few more who knows – I have to make the most of it. And that is about adding more medals to what I already have and to leave this club in the Champions League. That is the challenge for me personally.

"It is not the same club (I joined) because we are not in the Champions League, so it becomes an awful lot more difficult to attract the top players.

"But I think the club's history and size – we've just been on a tour which has seen us play in front of nearly a quarter of a million people in 10 days – means the pull is still here.

"We need to break back into the top four to get back the pull we had four or five years ago when we were comfortably in the Champions League year in, year out.

"Players who come and get the club back into the Champions League will experience some of the biggest nights of their career, because playing European football in front of this crowd is different to any other."

Mention famous Champions League nights at Anfield and thoughts drift back to December 2004 and Gerrard's late goal against Olympiacos, which put the Reds into the knockout stage.

From there they went on to win the competition in a remarkable Istanbul final against AC Milan.

The 33-year-old rates it among his top three strikes and it is no surprise he picked the Greeks for today's testimonial at Anfield.

"Because of the timing of the goal, how important it was and what happened further down the line in Istanbul, that is the reason we decided to go down the Olympiacos road.

"When I look back that goal became very important to the club and myself personally – it's certainly in my top three goals I've ever scored."

"Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise how well my career has gone at this club," added Gerrard, who hopes to raise more than £1million for his charitable foundation from the match and a gala dinner.

"This club and the game have been superb to me, so the least I can do is support the area I come from. I know I am not going to change the world, but if I can give a little bit back it will make me feel proud."

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