Gerrard confirms he will leave Liverpool at end of season
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has confirmed he is to leave Anfield at the end of the season after making the "toughest decision of his life" to leave his boyhood club.
The midfielder, who turns 35 in May, has been with the Reds since the age of eight and even though he was offered a new deal to extend his contract beyond the summer he has chosen to seek a new challenge.
"This has been the toughest decision of my life and one which both me and my family have agonised over for a good deal of time," he told liverpoolfc.com.
"I am making the announcement now so that the manager and the team are not distracted by stories or speculation about my future.
"Liverpool Football Club has been such a huge part of all our lives for so long and saying goodbye is going to be difficult, but I feel it’s something that’s in the best interests of all involved, including my family and the club itself.
"I’m going to carry on playing and although I can’t confirm at this stage where that will be, I can say it will be somewhere that means I won’t be playing for a competing club and will not therefore be lining up against Liverpool – that is something I could never contemplate."
Gerrard has been linked with a move to Major League Soccer for some time and a move to the United States would appeal to him and his family but there is also reported to be interest from the Middle East.
"My decision is completely based on my wish to experience something different in my career and life and I also want to make sure that I have no regrets when my playing career is eventually over," he added.
"I can’t thank Brendan (Rodgers), the owners and everyone at the club enough for how they’ve handled this and I am leaving on great terms.
"Also, I would like to thank my team-mates and all the staff for their help and continued support.
"It is a very special place to be part of. It is my sincere hope and wish that one day I can return to serve Liverpool again, in whatever capacity best helps the club.
"One point that is important to make is that from now until the last kick of the last game of the season, I will be as fully committed to the team as I ever have been and giving everything I have to help Liverpool win games.
"My final message is for the people who make Liverpool Football Club the greatest in the world – the supporters.
"It has been a privilege to represent you, as a player and as captain.
"I have cherished every second of it and it is my sincere wish to finish this season and my Liverpool career on a high."
This season Gerrard has seen his pitch time reduced as manager Rodgers has tried to carefully look after his captain, admitting he cannot play three matches in a week to the level either of them would want.
Last season Rodgers employed him in a deeper holding midfield role which, combined with the attacking talents of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, almost saw Gerrard lift the league title he desperately craves as the one club honour missing from his extensive trophy cabinet.
Rodgers has continually praised Gerrard for the influence he has on and off the field and he was not hiding his admiration for him following Friday’s announcement.
"It is almost an impossible task to find the words to appropriately sum up Steven Gerrard and his importance to Liverpool," said Rodgers.
"This is an era where the word ‘legend’ is vastly overused, but in his case it actually doesn’t do him justice.
"From a personal point of view I will always have gratitude for the support he gave me, when I arrived here as manager.
"As a player he is immense and the influence he has on games should never be understated.
"At times he has carried this club on his back and in my time here he has always shown the ability that has rightly seen him be regarded as one of the world’s best for well over a decade.
"As a leader and as a man, he is probably incomparable to anyone I have ever worked with.
"He takes professionalism to a new level and the dedication he has to his work is an example to everyone in the game.
"People better placed than me to judge have said Steven is Liverpool’s greatest ever player; when you look at the company he is in, that is some statement.
"We of course will miss him, both on the field of play and in his capacity as club captain, but his influence will live on and we wish him nothing but joy and success wherever he chooses to go next.
"Until that moment arrives I will continue to enjoy working with Steven Gerrard the man and Steven Gerrard the player, one of the greatest we have seen."
Liverpool’s principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner took over the club in 2010 with Gerrard’s best years already behind him but they too recognised the significance of his impending departure.
And they promised the player there will always be a role for him at the club should he choose to return in the future.
"This news stirs many strong emotions for all of us connected with the club," they said in a joint statement.
"There is sadness that such a great player and person is leaving and won’t be playing for Liverpool beyond this season.
"But there is also a sense of celebration and gratitude, that we’ve all been privileged to watch and work with one of the true greats, not just of this club, but the game in general.
"His contribution to the club is almost beyond measure and it’s testimony to his influence that despite Liverpool having such a long and distinguished list of legendary figures, the name Steven Gerrard will always be at the summit.
"Steven will always have a part to play for this club as and when the time comes that he wishes to return.
"I hope we all respect that Steven and his family want to pursue something new and different for the final years of his playing career.
"We all wish him well in this endeavour and look forward to welcoming him back to Anfield in the future when the time is appropriate."