LONDON (Reuters) – Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will leave the club he has played for throughout his career and move to a foreign team at the end of the season, the English Premier League club said on Friday.
Gerrard, 34, has made 695 appearance and scored 180 goals for Liverpool after joining the club as an eight-year-old schoolboy.
“I’m going to carry on playing,” Gerrard said in a statement on the club website.
“Although I can’t confirm at this stage where that will be, I can say it will be somewhere that means I won’t be playing for a competing club and will not therefore be lining up against Liverpool — that is something I could never contemplate,” he added.
Gerrard is out of contract at the end of the season and the English media speculated that he could move to North America to play in the Major League Soccer (MLS).
He has been at the heart of the Liverpool team for the past decade and showed his enduring value to the club with two penalties in a 2-2 draw with Leicester City on Thursday.
His greatest moment in a Liverpool shirt was when he helped to inspire their dramatic comeback win over AC Milan in the Champions League final in 2005.
However, he suffered disappointment last May when Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title.
They faltered late in the campaign when they appeared poised to become English champions for the first time since 1990.
“My decision is completely based on my wish to experience something different in my career and life and I also want to make sure that I have no regrets when my playing career is eventually over,” added Gerrard.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers paid tribute to his captain’s contribution to the club.
“It is almost an impossible task to find the words to appropriately sum up Steven Gerrard and his importance to Liverpool,” Rodgers said.
“This is an era where the word ‘legend’ is vastly overused, but in his case it actually doesn’t do him justice.”
Gerrard played 114 times for England before retiring after captaining the team at last year’s World Cup in Brazil where they were knocked out at the group stage.
WHAT THEY SAID
“As a player he is immense and the influence he has on games should never be understated. At times he has carried this club on his back and in my time here he has always shown the ability that has rightly seen him be regarded as one of the world’s best for well over a decade. As a leader and as a man, he is probably incomparable to anyone I have ever worked with. He takes professionalism to a new level and the dedication he has to his work is an example to everyone in the game. He is also someone who has always put the club and team ahead of himself and I think that will ultimately be his legacy.”
– Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
“His contribution to the club is almost beyond measure and it’s testimony to his influence, that despite Liverpool having such a long and distinguished list of legendary figures, the name Steven Gerrard will always be at the summit. Another emotion that resonates today is respect; a respect not just for his achievements but also the decision he and his family have reached. Steven will always have a part to play for this club, as and when the time comes that he wishes to return. We all wish him well in this endeavour and look forward to welcoming him back to Anfield in the future, when the time is appropriate.”
– Liverpool owners John W Henry and Tom Werner
“Stevie will always be a legend, not just for Liverpool but to England as well. He’ll go down in history as one of the best midfielders in the game. He’s just unbelievable every day, a great leader and the perfect example for every young player around the country.”
– Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge
“I always knew he was going to be a star. I’ve been watching Liverpool for 50 years and he is the best player I have ever seen. Someone like Kenny Dalglish was different class but my logic is when Kenny played all 11 players were superstars but Steven has played with some basic, ordinary footballers who wouldn’t have gotten into Kenny’s reserve team.”
– Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge
“It must have been a huge decision for Steven but it is sad for him because he has been a fantastic servant for the club. He has seen some of the tough times as well as the good times. To go out season after season shows the character of the player. He has been first class.”
– Former Liverpool midfielder Ray Houghton