Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers accepts captain Steven Gerrard is no longer the player he once was, but he insists it is wrong to write him off entirely.
Gerrard’s has been poor this season, but the Liverpool boss defended himself against accusations he has continued to select the ex-England midfielder on reputation alone.
“I judge Steven on merit. I think the spotlight he has been under is incredible. Everything for us is based around being a team,” said Rodgers.
“If people are expecting Steven Gerrard to be the type of player he was 10 years ago that is sadly not the case.
“He has slowly been adapting to a position I felt he could benefit the team but a player who was scoring 15 goals a season and making 13 or 14 assists…..he is not that type of player (any more).
“It is hugely unfair he is judged at that level. He is a wonderful player and I can quite safely say he is the best player I have worked with in terms of footballing mentality and the loyalty he has shown to this club is without question.
“I don’t deal so much in (being) sentimental. There is nothing sentimental in me picking Steven Gerrard.
“He is coming towards the latter part of his career but he still has a valuable contribution to make.
“He can play three games in a week but he won’t be able to play it to the level he would like or I would like and it is my job to manage that.”
That last comment suggests Rodgers is prepared to rest his captain against Ludogorets in Sofia on Wednesday, which would be a second successive Champions League benching for the midfielder having come on for the final 20 minutes against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu last time out.
Once of the reasons that Gerrard is still playing is that he wants to compete on the biggest stages, and he must have beeb bitterly disappointed not to have led the Reds out against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu earlier this month, one of the true meccas of world football.
But there is no doubt that the Liverpool captain has struggled this season. Last season Gerrard was brilliant in a deep lying midfield role, winning 69 tackles, 48 interceptions and 91 clearances and he provided cover for Liverpool’s leaky back four
Compare that to his performance at Selhurst Park on Sunday where Gerrard made 0 tackles, 0 interceptions and 0 fouls, despite playing 90 minutes in that deep lying midfield role.
Whether it was the strain of the World Cup or that that last season took a lot out of him, but Gerrard is a shadow of the player that was was and has been. And there is nothing that Brendan Rodgers can say to change that, as Liverpool fans can see it with