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Saturday 3 December 2016

Steven Gerrard: The buzz of playing for Liverpool changed when my role was restricted

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard

Departing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits the "buzz" of playing changed when he learned he was to have a restricted role and that was when he decided to sever ties with his boyhood club.

The midfielder, who turns 35 later this month, retired from England duty last July in order to extend his lifespan at club level but early in the season he discovered he would no longer be a regular starter under manager Brendan Rodgers.

That proved to be a major factor in him not signing a contract extension and opting to move to California for a new challenge with the Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the campaign.

"I think the signs this year were that I'm going to become a squad player, play less," said Gerrard, speaking at the 5Times Liverpool Former Player Association Gala Dinner.

"I'm going to come on as a sub and the buzz changes.

"For me, I go to work on a Monday morning and I look forward to Saturday, to prepare to go to battle with some wonderful people - with good mates - and that's my buzz.

"When a manager gets you into the office and says that's going to change and it's going to become more limited - that's when you make your decision.

"It's not a selfish thing; coming on as a sub's just not the same buzz so things have changed this year."

Gerrard, who has carried the burden of leading Liverpool over the last decade, recently spoke of how he is looking forward to not having as much pressure on his shoulders in Major League Soccer.

Despite his vast achievements for the club he has been associated with since joining their academy at the age of nine he will find a life of relative anonymity on the west coast of the United States.

"It lets you give a little back to your family," he added.

"You step out of the city, you breathe for a bit, you enjoy your kids and you go to a place where you are going to enjoy it.

"I think the league's going to be good, I can still start games and I can still enjoy it."

Gerrard, who will be honoured in his final match at Anfield against Crystal Palace on Saturday, will not be the only one to leave this summer.

Full-back Glen Johnson has not been offered a new deal while fellow defender Kolo Toure and goalkeeper Brad Jones also have contracts which expire this summer.

Toure has been offered new terms but it seems increasingly unlikely the 34-year-old will stay on but full-back Jon Flanagan, also in the last few weeks of his contract, is expected to be offered a new deal despite knee surgery ruling him out until well into next season.

Gerrard urged Fenway Sports Group, who sanctioned nearly £120million of spending last summer, to invest again to fill the void left by his departure.

"Hopefully the owners will dig deep so the squad can be strengthened with the quality needed to bring more good times in the future," he said.

Press Association Sport understands 19-year-old winger Jordon Ibe is close to signing a new agreement which will reflect his emergence into the first team this season but the future of Raheem Sterling, a year older, remains unclear.

The England international still has more than two years to run on his existing deal but turned down Liverpool's £100,000-a-week offer earlier in the year and will not reopen talks until the end of the season.

Former Reds captain Phil Thompson believes the writing is on the wall for the youngster, who has been pressed into an unfamiliar central striker role this season because of injuries to Daniel Sturridge.

"I think it will be very difficult for him to stay at Liverpool now. He's shown all the signs that he's ready and prepared to leave the club," Thompson told Sky Sports.

"But if he was to stay I would like to think his role will be on the flanks - I don't think Liverpool can even contemplate him being their main striker next season, because he's not a natural goalscorer.

"Liverpool need somebody who's going to get you at least 15 league goals and maybe 25 overall - Raheem Sterling is not going to get you that.

"He's done well for the team - he's helped them out up front this season, but I think everyone can see that he's not quite strong enough for it.

"So, no matter where he is next season, I think his best role is out wide rather than through the middle."

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