LONDON (AFP) – Steven Gerrard, who announced his departure from boyhood club Liverpool on Friday, is a player destined to be remembered as much for his extraordinary achievements as for his agonising near-misses.
The 34-year-old midfielder has captained Liverpool for 12 years, notably lifting the Champions League trophy after an unforgettable comeback against AC Milan in 2005, but coveted successes elsewhere have eluded him.
Although he has also won two FA Cups, three League Cups and the UEFA Cup, among other honours, he has never laid his hands on the Premier League trophy and met with nothing but heartbreak in his 14 years with England.
The last 12 months have reflected the latter years of his career in microcosm — glorious opportunity, followed by crushing disappointment.
Gerrard was poised to capture his first Premier League title last season, but his cruel slip in an April defeat against Chelsea tilted the momentum in the title race in Manchester City’s favour.
Weeks later, after one of the most accomplished seasons of his career, he went to Brazil hoping for a memorable international swansong at the World Cup, only for England to crash out after two matches.
“It’s probably been the worst three months of my life,” he admitted during Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the United States.
Gerrard has endured more than his fair share of disappointment since inspiring Liverpool to glory in the 2006 FA Cup, with the 2012 League Cup the only major honour he has won since.
He also went close to winning the league title under Rafael Benitez in 2009, when Liverpool looked destined for the championship, only for Manchester United to steam past them in the home straight.
It was a similar story with England, who he represented on 114 occasions and captained at three major tournaments.
His first England goal was a sizzling 25-yard strike in a famous 5-1 win away to Germany in 2001, but his international career thereafter was a succession of false dawns and high-profile failures.
But taken as a whole, in his club career — which began when he walked through the doors of Liverpool’s academy at the age of eight — Gerrard has scaled almost all the heights.
From the header that sparked the comeback to end all comebacks against Milan in Istanbul to the sensational 35-yard thunderbolt that took the 2006 FA Cup final to extra time, he has swaggered through his Anfield career with the audacity of a comic-book hero.