It is no small irony that after 24 hours of headlines about Frank Lampard that the spotlight has passed to Steven Gerrard. After all, it’s these two players who are forever inextricably linked in the minds of a generation of fans and journalists alike. Gerrard’s decision to retire from the only club he has ever played for knocked the discussion of Frank Lampard’s game-winning goal for Manchester City that brought his new club level with his old one atop the table out of the headlines. Gerrard’s potential move to Major League Soccer might ease the pain many in North America are feeling towards Lampard’s seemingly dismissive attitude to the league in order to stay at Manchester City for one last shot at English glory.
The Gerrard-Lampard comparisons run deep. Both were classy attacking midfielders that played key roles at top English clubs. Like so many before and after him, Lampard was a product of West Ham’s academy who came of age at a bigger and more visible club. Gerrard played his entire career in English football for Liverpool and they both became factors at the international level around the same time.
England had a cultured midfielder in Paul Scholes at the time but the Manchester United man’s game was different than most in the country were accustomed to at the time – Gerrard and Lampard both seemed better fits for the Three Lions going forward.
But the age old debate about which was better and who should play ahead of whom was never solved. England coaches vacillated trying to set up sides that accommodated both players. At the time, each England manager from Sven-Goran Eriksson to Roy Hodgson was savaged for this. But in hindsight, it could have worked had England been willing to sacrifice a wide player. After all, when Jose Mourinho attempted to bring Gerrard to Stamford Bridge, no doubt he had a plan to play both in the same side in high-level European matches.
Perhaps the desire of many in the English press to push an agenda for the Three Lions, acting more as cheerleaders than objective journalists and then turning into vicious attack dogs instead of introspective analysts when things went wrong doomed any potential partnership. Whatever the case, the irony of Gerrard knocking Lampard out of the headlines and potentially upstaging his move to Major League Soccer is the latest chapter in the saga between these two players.
Another option exists though for Gerrard. The Lampard template without the messiness of committing to Major League Soccer and then signing a short-term contract with Manchester City instead could be appealing to a player who has not won an English league title. While Gerrard has indicated he will never play for another English club, suiting up for Chelsea and trying to push for a title in a final season in English football next year would make a tasty storyline. Manchester City would also be an option, though today it appears the possibility of Lampard continuing with the Citizens beyond this summer has become a distinct possibility.
Gerrard could also try and make one last run in European football by signing for a big club on the continent. But this would be risky and perhaps his game and his diminishing skills would not fit any top club outside England.
So maybe unlike Lampard, it will be to Major League Soccer straightaway for Gerrard. In any event, arguably the greatest player in Premier League history will not be suiting up for Liverpool again after the end of this season and that is a cause for sadness for all true fans of the sport.
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