Nonsense in the press about Steven Gerrard seemed to be all over and done with in the summer of 2005 when the Liverpool captain signed a new deal and snubbed Chelsea for a second time. He put in a great season which was rounded off with his match winning performance and goal of the season in the FA Cup final.
Over the summer he was a part of the England team that were knocked out earlier than they expected to be in the World Cup finals, before starting another season with the Reds, one which promised so much given the progress that had seemed to have been made.
Liverpool didn’t start as well as they could away from home and before too long Sky had decided that Liverpool couldn’t win the league. They decided it again a few weeks later when we lost to Manchester United, and that was probably right. Their chief pundit and presenter Richard Keys and Andy Gray have enjoyed a campaign criticising Steven Gerrard being played on the right and Rafael Benítez’s rotation policy. And they aren’t the only ones, with a nameless director adding his piece in Friday’s Mirror and the Sunday versions making up more ridiculous tales. Once again we are hearing tales that Gerrard is unhappy and on his way out of the club.
Nonsense. Especially the ones that have Gerrard going to Real Madrid a few months in advance of Benítez. Yes, some idiots say Gerrard will leave for Real after falling out with Rafa, but that Rafa is also going to be going to Real after falling out with the board!
Liverpool boss Benítez decided to speak out today about the tall tales, and said Gerrard is not going anywhere: “It is clear. I will not be selling my captain. It is always a surprise to see such things that are not true. Especially for Steven because he had played such a good game. Against Villa he worked really hard, so to see this the following day is a surprise, disappointing that this is all that people can think of.”
Gerrard has had worries over his six-month-old daughter Lexie since last weekend after she came down with an illness that was feared to be meningitis. After Steven and fiancée Alex spent a night at Lexie’s hospital bedside it was confirmed as an allergic reaction but it was obviously quite some scare. Rafa says that was one of his main concerns about his captain: “This week we have been talking with Steven, and last week. He was OK, we were talking about his daughter and how she is, as well as team issues and how we can give the team more confidence. I feel he is really focused on the club, and our idea for sure is to keep him and to see him scoring goals this season and for many years for Liverpool.”
Before anyone assumes he had to pull Stevie in to have a chat with him over the rumours, that wasn’t the case – they are always talking: “I have not had just 'a word' with Steven, we talk many times, every day. He is my captain and we talk all the time, sometimes for long times. To say anything else is crazy. I do not have any intention of selling my captain.”
Rafa said that the whole team improved yesterday, including the captain, for Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Villa: “Against Villa all the team was playing better, not just Steven. If you have more possession and passing is better then Steven will play better. If some of the key players are performing better, then that helps the new players. Things looked much better against Villa.”
Rafa says these tall tales weren’t tales of the unexpected: “It was a surprise, no? Some people never rest, they are always trying to find something like this. But you could see how much better Steven was, his commitment and performance. We are experienced now in things like this. We are just determined to focus on our next game, against Bordeaux.”
Liverpool play the French side on Tuesday in the Champions League, and Rafa will no doubt get the usual comments about rotation from the ITV crew covering that game. In the meantime all the nonsense is aimed at his relationship with Gerrard and how angry his captain is supposed to be at being played “out of position”. Rafa says Steven’s more than happy: “You need only to see him yesterday to know the truth. During the game he was happy, and afterward too, everyone enjoyed the day.”
And with that Rafa put the whole issue to one side again, and got back to what he does best – planning for each game as it comes: “We are only thinking of Bordeaux and qualifying for the next stage of the Champions League.”
Actions speak louder than words but it is good to hear Rafa’s words backing up the actions of the manager, the team and the fans yesterday.