Gerrard inspired Liverpool to victory in the 2005 Champions League final
By Mandeep Sanghera
In a summer when the world-record transfer fee has been broken twice, if you asked most Liverpool fans what Steven Gerrard is worth, the answer would probably be that he is priceless.
Gerrard came close to leaving Liverpool for Chelsea in July 2005 and, although it was a close call, he could not bring himself to break a bond with the club which began when he was nine.
The all-action midfielder was drafted into the Anfield outfit in 1989 after being spotted by Liverpool scouts while he played for Whiston Juniors.
He developed through the Anfield ranks before making his first-team debut in 1998 aged 18 and, now 29, the midfielder has become one of the world's top players.
A versatile player, Gerrard has already become an icon at a club which is England's most successful and where it is not easy to earn such a mantle.
The fact that Gerrard, who was made an MBE in 2006, is a "local lad done good" only endears and increases his love affair with Liverpool.
1989: Joins Liverpool
1998: Makes first-team debut
2000: Makes England debut
2001: Wins PFA young player of the year award
2001: Helps Liverpool win FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup
2001: Scores first goal for England
2002: Misses 2002 World Cup through injury
2003: Picks up League Cup winners' medal
2004: Part of England Euro 2004 squad
2005: Picks up Champions League winners' medal
2006: Wins FA Cup winners' medal
He grew up in Huyton and his rise is not only the stuff of dreams but serves as an inspiration to his adoring fans hoping to follow in his footsteps.
Youngsters, in particular, look up to an ambassadorial Liverpool captain more akin to making headlines for his exploits on the pitch rather than off it.
When he was banned from the roads for nine months for drinking and driving as a 19-year-old, his status did not appear to diminish among the fans.
Indeed, during his trial for affray young Liverpool supporters were continuing to seek his autograph outside Liverpool Crown Court.
Gerrard burst on to the scene for Liverpool as a raw talent, with his aggression and passion sometimes threatening to undermine his ability.
But, as he progressed to a first-team regular, he gradually refined his game to channel his determination and mature as a player.
He helped Liverpool win the FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup in 2001 as he became an integral part of the side.
Indeed, Gerrard was seen as being far superior to his team-mates and the club's lack of success played a part in him considering moving when courted by Chelsea.
Gerrard enhanced his reputation by staying loyal to Liverpool and trying to drive a struggling club back to their halcyon days of former glories.
He was rewarded for his efforts when he inspired one of football's great comebacks in the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan.
The Reds, who had scraped into the knockout stages courtesy of an arrowed 20-yard Gerrard shot against Olympiakos, were written off when they went 3-0 down to Milan in the final.
However, Gerrard headed in to pull one back and won a penalty as Liverpool drew level before winning on penalties in Istanbul.
Gerrard was made an MBE in 2006
Gerrard was at it again a year later when he equalised against West Ham with a last-gasp 35-yard strike to send the FA Cup final into extra-time, before another Reds victory on penalties.
Liverpool have failed to add to their trophy cabinet since that win but Gerrard has continued to flourish and added the 2005/2006 PFA player of the year award to his 2000/2001 PFA young player of the year prize.
He has yet to earn a league winner's medal because Liverpool have failed to win the title since 1990.
But hopes are high at Anfield that they can remedy the situation by improving on their second place to Manchester United last season.
An England international, Gerrard missed the 2002 World Cup because of a groin injury but was part of the country's squad at Euro 2000 and Euro 2004, while also playing at the 2006 World Cup.
He has 74 international caps and, although he has failed to mirror his club form for England, his lofty standing in the game was recently emphasised by former great Zinedine Zidane.
"Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo but, yes, I think he just might be," said Zidane.
"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."
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