LONDON (Reuters) - Brendan Rodgers had just one word to describe his captain Steven Gerrard ahead of what promises to be an emotional Anfield farewell -- ‘Liverpool’.
Gerrard will wave goodbye to the Liverpool fans in his final home match against Crystal Palace on Saturday after 17 years sterling service, packed with career-defining moments of individual heroism.
With the midfielder quitting the club at the end of the season for a swansong in Major League Soccer, Rodgers assessed the impact of a player, whose loyalty was tested on a number of occasions, but always stayed faithful to his boyhood club.
“I’ve asked a number of people and I’ve asked a lot of my staff if they could describe Steven in one word, what would it be,” Rodgers told reporters on Friday.
”(I heard) all the words you will have heard before -- words that come to mind in terms of being genuine, quality and world class. All the adjectives you would describe him with.
”But for me, the word I would describe him with is ‘Liverpool’. Not just Liverpool as a football club or Liverpool and the supporters, but Liverpool the city...
”What he has given to this city, politicians haven’t given to this city. Local hospitals, the charities, all the work he does, it’s unheralded.
“He is a wonderful symbol for the people here and an incredible, incredible icon of the club.”
Gerrard’s status as one of the club’s most iconic talents is safely assured after a career that will be remembered for his ability to bring his best game to the biggest stages, frequently hauling Liverpool over the line with acts of sheer willpower.
His performance in the 2005 Champions League final when he led Liverpool’s fightback from 3-0 down against AC Milan to claim the trophy will go down as one of the greatest individual performances in the club’s history.
With the current Liverpool squad perhaps lacking players of the highest stature, Rodgers acknowledged that his presence will be sorely missed.
“I will miss Steven Gerrard as a man. I think both our interests are purely devoted to Liverpool Football Club,” he said.
While Gerrard’s Anfield playing days are almost certainly over, Rodgers did not completely rule out a return on loan, with the MLS season ending in December and the 2016 campaign not starting until March.
“Steven has always made it clear in our talks that he would look to help the club in any capacity he can,” Rodgers said.
“If we feel that could be from a playing perspective it’s something we will look at another time.”
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ed Osmond