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Steven Gerrard’s departure from Merseyside makes no sense

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11th-Jan-2015       
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It all seems a little strange. Twenty-five years after joining Liverpool as a child, Steven Gerrard is leaving. Yes, he's leaving as an icon, his name embedded in the fabric of the storied Merseyside club and considered by many to be the greatest player to have ever pulled on a fabled, red, Liver-crested shirt. But why is he going anywhere?
Last season, instead of being defined by his 13 goals (his second-best tally ever) and 13 assists in the Premiership, Gerrard was remembered for that slip against Chelsea. This season, he's scored nine goals in all competitions, four in his last two games. Against AFC Wimbledon in the third round of the FA Cup last weekend, he rescued his side again when they struggled against lower-league opposition and desperately searched for inspiration. As he did so consistently in his pomp, Gerrard rose to the occasion and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. His first goal was a firm, downward header to the far corner after collecting, feeding the ball wide and making a darting run into the area. His second was another cliche - that swirling, dipping free kick curled expertly just under the crossbar. It was vintage.
Yet, to many, his departure has been inevitable. Earlier in the season, when Liverpool were devoid of everything, it was Gerrard who received the abuse. He was long-serving, long-suffering local boy who had done good. The captain. The leader. The player who decided against joining Chelsea in 2005 and instead toiled and struggled throughout the subsequent decade, always coming up short in what proved a torturous and futile search for success. That guy was being told he wasn't good enough anymore.
There would've been some merit to the argument had the Liverpool team been filled with players stepping up and delivering - something Gerrard has spent his entire career doing. But Anfield is lacking in much these days - the spark and tingle provided by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge seems such a long time ago, a time when Liverpool fans were drunk on possibilities. Coming up short in a desperate attempt to scale the dizzying heights, the subsequent hangover has lasted for eight months and sobering up has been difficult. But, as always, through the haze and the piercing headaches, there's been Gerrard. He is the one constant. He is the one relentless star.
There's a common understanding that Gerrard isn't the same player anymore. But he's still a better midfielder than any other member of the Liverpool squad. Age dictates he can't be involved in every game but he should play the important ones. Gifted central midfielders are a rare commodity which is why at other clubs, they're treated with patience, understanding and respect.
At 34, Paul Scholes was still starting Champions League finals for Manchester United. He retired at 37, quickly reconsidered, rejoined the team and played on for a further 18 months. Elsewhere, Andrea Pirlo continues to be a mainstay for club and country in spite of his veteran status.

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