STEVEN GERRARD EXCLUSIVE; Gary Neville Said Fergie Wanted Me but I Could Never Play for United. Jose Asked Three Times Too but I'll Always Be a Liverpool Player

Daily Mail (London), September 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

STEVEN GERRARD EXCLUSIVE; Gary Neville Said Fergie Wanted Me but I Could Never Play for United. Jose Asked Three Times Too but I'll Always Be a Liverpool Player


Byline: THE MATT LAWTON INTERVIEW

THERE is a reason Sir Alex Ferguson once described Steven Gerrard as the most influential player in English football.

It is because he was -- and perhaps still is -- but it is also because the manager of Manchester United wanted him to leave Anfield and move to Old Trafford in what would have been an astonishing transfer coup.

The captain of Liverpool and England confirmed as much during this interview, just as he revealed that Jose Mourinho had indeed tried for a third time, in his current role as the manager of Real Madrid, to lure the midfielder away from his native Merseyside.

Twice at Chelsea and then in Spain. Mourinho might have mocked Gerrard for what he suggested was a lack of ambition when his advances were rejected for a second time in 2005 but the Only One, as he now likes to be called, could not resist another crack.

Rarely has Gerrard spoken with more candour than he did at Liverpool's Melwood training ground this week. He has always been a good interviewee; forthright and engaging and a footballer one could never accuse of lacking humility at a time when his profession is being measured against Olympians. But Gerrard is improving with age and experience and, at 32, he has become quite the football statesman.

He reflected on the European Championship and the personal suffering he endured in the wake of yet another penalty shootout defeat for England, just as he said he hoped to 'sign off' his international career with a more successful campaign at the next World Cup in Brazil.

But it was on the subject of Liverpool, the club he has served for most of his life, the club to which he has remained loyal when the opportunity has presented itself to win that elusive league title elsewhere, that he speaks most openly and passionately.

His take on why Liverpool have not won the Barclays Premier League, and most likely never will during his time, is brutally honest -- as is his assessment of the challenge facing Brendan Rodgers.

The new Liverpool manager certainly has the support of the club skipper. Gerrard has been hugely impressed by what he has seen so far. But Gerrard says following Kenny Dalglish will be every bit as tough for Rodgers as it will be for the man who succeeds Ferguson at United. 'They are big shoes to fill,' he said.

Ferguson was trying to fill some big shoes when he made known his admiration for Gerrard in 2004. 'If you were looking for the player you would replace Keane with, it would be Gerrard,' he said. 'He has become the most influential player in England, bar none. More than Vieira. To me, Gerrard is Keane. Anyone would love to have Gerrard in their team.' It was a very public flirtation but one that appears to have gone beyond a strategically placed newspaper interview and one that coincided with strong interest from Chelsea.

While Gerrard is reluctant to divulge the finer details, he made it clear that there were advances.

'That sort of thing has been going on for the last 10 years,' said Gerrard. 'People only really heard about it with Mourinho and Chelsea in 2004 and 2005. But it has happened a few times.

'It was flattering back then because the two best managers around wanted me to play in their teams.

'Gary Neville said he (Ferguson) wanted me. But you understand that playing for Manchester United would have been impossible. I never would have wanted to play for Manchester United. They are a fantastic club but that rivalry is there, and it's why Gary could not have played for us either.

'Don't get me wrong. It was flattering that, after everything he has done in the game, Sir Alex Ferguson wanted me to play in his team. But that was an impossible situation.

'The Mourinho thing was different, of course. This club weren't really challenging at the time, so there was something to think about. But I ended up saying no and a year later I said no again. …

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