Following Liverpool’s 4-0 dismantling of Real Madrid at Anfield last midweek, France legend Zinedine Zidane described Steven Gerrard as “the best player in the world.”
“Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Messi and Ronaldo but yes, I think he just might be.
“No team will be successful without a heartbeat and you can see Gerrard is that heartbeat.
“He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief.
“You can’t learn that — players like him are just born with that presence.”
Normally, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi saturate arguments about the best player in the world. Whether Gerrard belongs in this discussion, depends on the criteria.
Gerrard deserves consideration based on talent. He’s a skillful player with uncanny vision. He’s innovative with a flair for the dramatic. He’s dangerous on set pieces and in space. His instincts allow him to do things no one else would ponder. He’s one of the few players in world football who can truly pull a goal out of his ass, against the run of play.
It’s this ability that commands the respect of current and former players.
Though Gerrard displays none of the requisite maturity off the pitch, he deserves respect as a decent leader. He’s neither overbearing nor bullish like a John Terry or a Rio Ferdinand, but remains as effective. Whether Gerrard is “the heartbeat,” whether he makes those around him better and whether he has a strange magic are not important. It is important is that his teammates believe it.
Gerrard’s a striking talent and a leader. Experienced and playing at his peak, he has led his team to trophies, including the Champions League. Unfortunately, it requires more than mere talent to be the best player.
Steven Gerrard has the raw ability necessary to be the greatest, but, despite his years of experience, it’s still raw. He can achieve greatness through his instincts and innovation, but the routine fundamentals mastered by those with less ability, often stymie him.
Gerrard attacks with spirit, but without measurement, dashing into a hopeless positions and losing the ball. He’ll overrun passes. He’ll attempt the impossible. He’ll squander opportunities, rather than hold possession. If Gerrard was an artist, he would paint the most brilliant surreal paintings, yet struggle with a basic portrait.
He’s a brilliant match of the day player. His highlight makes the reel. His fifteen poor decisions that preceded it disappear from consciousness.
Gerrard plays in a free role in Liverpool’s system. He plays in a free role, because he can’t man a position. It’s why Benitez takes him out late in games. It’s why he has been marooned on the right wing at times. He plays only the Steven Gerrard way, the mark of a man whose talent eviscerated necessary criticism too early in his career.
Gerrard flourishes in a Liverpool system designed to account for him, and falters when he leaves this flattering ten-man embrace to play for England. Gerrard and Lampard generally do not play well together. Because Lampard won’t scurry behind the line cleaning up Gerrard’s mess.
Steven Gerrard equals anyone on talent, but his inability to maximize it brings him down a notch. Gerrard is not on the transcendent Zidane, Platini or Cryuff level. He’s a very rich man’s Robbie Keane.
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