It was back in 2005, following Jose Mourinho’s first capture of the Premier League title, and the Portuguese manager looked to have all but confirmed that Steven Gerrard would be joining his table-topping side at the end of the season.
Despite suffering a barrage of abuse at the hands of a small minority of the Liverpool crowd in what appeared to be his last few months at Anfield, Gerrard went on to lift the Champions League with the club, and immediately agreed to a stay.
Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday following a 2-1 defeat to Premier League strugglers Aston Villa. The result would have been hard for anybody within the Liverpool camp to take, but it would have come as a particularly hard blow to Gerrard.
The FA Cup was the Liverpool stalwarts last chance at silverware at Anfield, as he is set to join MLS club LA Galaxy this summer, bringing an end to 17 years in the Liverpool first-team. As he crouched down in the middle of the pitch following Sunday’s defeat, with the Aston Villa players celebrating around him, I bet he wished he had joined Mourinho’s Chelsea all them years back.
He has undoubtedly gone on to become a Kop legend, but it was clear back in 2005 that that night in Istanbul was always going to be the high point in his career. Of course, winning the Champions League will always top winning the league for any player, but most sides capable of winning Europe’s top prize have already claimed a handful of league titles. For Gerrard, that is an achievement that he never has, and now never will, achieve.
Since that day, Chelsea have gone on to win two Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, two League Cups, one Champions League and a Europa League title, with another league win almost certain this season. That would have been a spectacular end to a long Premier League career, but he instead leaves having earned just an FA Cup and a League Cup medal in the last ten years.
Chelsea have had a fantastic decade, but take a moment to consider the heights they could have reached with Gerrard in their ranks.
As Mourinho stated earlier this year, “I was dreaming of a Chelsea midfield of Makelele, Lampard and Gerrard, playing in an open triangle without a number 10.”
Instead, he had to settle for Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Michael Essien, a player of a similar mould to Gerrard, and soon turned him into one of the world’s best midfielders.
That could have, and should have been him.
Yet, it didn’t happen, and rather than lifting the Premier League trophy in his last ever Premier League appearance, he might very well have to lead the guard of honour if Chelsea clinch the title when Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge in three weeks time.