Why Steven Gerrard must quit international football

Sunday’s stalemate at Swansea saw another indifferent performance from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool Captain

It’s fair to say that Gerrard has struggled so far this season under new boss Brendan Rodgers. Whether this is down to struggling to adapt to Rodgers “system”, struggling to cope with changing his game as he enters the twilight years of his career, or due to the exertion of his impressive performances for England at Euro 2012, or a combination of factors.

What is clear, is that once a player reaches 32 they can no longer be expected to perform to the same level or at the same regularity as they did before they hit their thirties – especially a player with a track record of niggling injuries and whom has carried a team for a decade, being overly relied upon.

If Gerrard is now to continue to perform at a high level for his club, he must quit his country.

Name a player who has played on, and to a high standard, into their mid-thirties, who plays regularly for their country at the same time.

Now name a player who has quit international football early, in order to prolong their club career.

Brad Friedel, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are probably the most high profile names you’ll come up with on your second list.

Scholes quit England in 2004, aged 29, and later said in his autobiography “It was like a huge burden being lifted from my shoulders. In future I could look forward to summertime without that sense of foreboding which had preyed on me for so long. I had made the right decision for my family and myself and since then I have never felt otherwise.”

Ryan Giggs made just 66 appearances for Wales before retiring in 2007. He and Scholes now remain key parts of United’s squad at the age of 38. This won’t be possible for Gerrard if he continues his current schedule.

Ferguson has also encouraged Rio Ferdinand to completely retire from playing for England in order to prolong his career.

Spurs keeper Brad Friedel, still a regular at 41, explained how retiring early from playing for USA has aided him playing into his forties – combined with some yoga!

“I’ve been doing it [yoga] since I was 31 or 32. It coincided with me retiring from international football. I was starting to feel the strain. I only played one more game for the US after the 2002 World Cup. And I got into yoga at that point. It’s something I felt I needed to do to prolong my career and I think it’s worked for me.”

Even Ben Foster recently retired from international football, explaining “Performing at the highest level game in, game out… really takes it out of your body.”

Gerrard meanwhile has admitted he pondered quitting after the Euros, but instead wants to lead England into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

“I’ve been honest that it has crossed my mind on a couple of occasions, but being the captain and the buzz I get for England outweighs the thoughts of knocking it on the head.

“I wanted to carry on for a couple more years and see if things change and a bit of luck comes our way.”

So it looks like there is no possibility of Gerrard having a change of heart and retiring from England.

Instead then, Brendan Rodgers will face some tough decisions surrounding his captain. He clearly cannot play every single game, which he is being asked to due to our lack of squad depth. Even when being ‘rested’ for Europa League games he’s been called upon for a large cameo more often than not.

Lucas’ return to fitness could provide an option for Gerrard to be rested, or even moved into a more attacking role in the front 3, with Lucas, Allen and Shelvey or Suso in the midfield three.

The most sensible and productive decision would be to quit England and heighten the chances of allowing for more years being a regular part of the Liverpool team. Without such a decision, it’s difficult to see how Gerrard can perform to the required level on a regular basis.

One of Rafa’s boldest and biggest decisions early on was famously subbing Gerrard for a young Lucas in a Merseyside derby. Similarly, one of Rodgers’ biggest will be dropping Gerrard.

More: , ,

Co-founder of This Is Anfield. Writer for Bleacher Report and Metro newspaper.
All posts are reactively-moderated and must obey the comment policy.
  • the kod

    i am gerrards biggest fan and grew up watching him b the best midfielder in the game but the brutal truth is gerrard is more a hindrance than a help this season.playing consistantly very poor.

  • Gano1

    He isn’t playing very well that is true but he has a few brownie points in the bank, the fella is class. He does need to retire from England for sure, he can play for 4 more years at Liverpool easily but needs to rest better between games.

  • Darryl W

    What we really need in January is to bring in as good a central midfielder as we can in order to give Stevie a rest now and then, he’s been the main man carrying the team for far too long now and we’re seeing just what toll that’s taken on him over the years, he loves playing for and captaining both LFC and England.

    Personally I don’t know why he plays in the friendlies at all, afterall it’s not as if he’s new to the team and they should be used to give inexperienced internationals their chance to shine on the international stage.

    • Daniel Rudd

      Gerard has been average for the last 30 months. Far from world class.
      Scholes and Giggs madet the right decision by retiring. Gerard wants to break Beckams appearance record. Its quite sad. England bores me to tears. I honestly could not watch another England match. They are embarrsing. Not sure why SG is carrying on. H will have to leave us in 2014 as he will be knackered!!

  • Doggie

    He hasn’t been ‘very poor’ at all, just not at his best. I don’t think he needs to quit internationals, just avoid the friendlies like everyone else does.

  • Nick

    Simply not gonna happen is it? The fella waited the best part of a decade to get the England armband, being given the cold shoulder by a succession of managers. He’s not going to give it up in a hurry. Had Hodgson also given him the snub on that one, I genuinely believe that we wouldn’t be having this discussion now, as he wouldn’t be playing for England anymore. He will also have the records of Moore, Beckham etc in his sights as well now, having got that 100th cap.

    Make no mistake, Gerrard has been a truly magnificent servant to both Liverpool and England, and I get the impression he’s very uncomfortable with choosing between one or the other, with a fierce pride in playing for, and captaining, both. Be all and end all perhaps is, how much do we trust Gerrard to know his own body enough to call it a day. Being honest, I think he’s played 20 games for us already this season, plus, what, 4 games for England, and its not even December yet…I must say part of me’s just waiting for the next long injury lay off with that workload on him at 32.

    Do I think he’s been as poor as some people are making out though? For the most part, no! Without ever reaching the heights of a few years back he’s still producing moments of quality here and there. He’s the third best chance creator in the league at the moment I think. For all their ability in keeping possession, Allen and Lucas do not have that ability to unlock the door. I don’t think he should be playing as a deep CM though. Get Lucas back, and play him in the AM slot, or on the right. His crossing is second to none, and if we bring in a decent CF to compliment Suarez in January, then that could make sense. I do think people are a bit quick to get on his case sometimes though, I have to admit.

  • King Carra

    “Ryan Giggs made just 66 appearances for Wales before retiring in 2007, also aged 27.” How could he be 27 in 2007 but 38 in 2012?

    • http://www.thisisanfield.com This Is Anfield

      Good point! Will fix that.

  • steve martin

    Gerrard is an attacking midfielder and
    as such would still walk into any team in the world. Yes, he can do
    the ‘short pass possession’ stuff, but he will not be as influential
    on a game. For me, he is like a Ferrari: designed to be driven at
    full pelt, 180 mph. It can do 30 mph, but really it’s purpose is 180
    mph. Even if it’s a classic model that can no longer do 200 mph, is
    still should be driven at full throttle. Gerrard is no different
    (both are Red!), he is clearly being played out of position. He
    should be constantly attacking the goal with Suarez, giving the
    opposition defence a nightmare. The opposition now know where
    Gerrard will be playing and will be so relieved that he is not
    attacking their goal.

    We are constantly being told that we
    need a striker as we are heavily reliant on Suarez to score goals.
    This is because Gerrard is being played out of position. In the past
    Gerard would have had 5 – 10 shots at goal. These days he is
    having 1 or 2. I don’t care how many strikers or left backs Rodgers
    buys in the new year. He has one of the best mid fielders in world
    in his team, who has single handedly dragged this club through most
    games over the last 10 years and Rodgers is playing him out of

    The solution? Even Benitez, with his
    explicit instructions to players, saw sense and gave Gerrard a free
    role most of the time.

  • ash

    I think it would be more suitable for Gerard to play more as a centre midfielder a bit like Pierlo alongside Allen and ease Lucas back in to make sure he recovers properly and leave the attacking to shelvy Sahin Suso as they are more of attacking players. Id hate to see him go but if change needs to be made then so be it.

  • MinMin

    Give him a break , at lest when he is on the pitch , Liverpool will be motivated . Thats good enough .

  • nabil

    gerrard should retire from football end of hes an old age pensioner i respect him for what hes done at LFC but we need him now and hes makin no difference hes slopy in midfield gives the ball away sorry but shelveys better then him

  • Rederik

    What would we do if Gerrard signed for another team, apart from crapping ourselves we would probably resign ourselves to relegation, why can we not just give the man the credit he deserves, why don,t you write an artical on all the times he has saved us from defeat over the years, we can,t blame Steve for the mismanagement over the years and the numerous playing styles he is expected to produce on every new manager,s whim give the man a break for Gods sake he deserves better.

  • tommygun

    I don’t understand Gerrard’s decision to keep playing, if he think’s England is going to win the world cup in Brazil he’s tapped, especially with Hodgson as the manager. But it doesn’t look like he’s going to change his mind, he’s just grasping at straws thinking that Brazil will magically provide an International high for him to bow out of England on.

    The only thing I can think of that might actually convince him it’s time to pack England in is if he were no longer getting regular starts for Liverpool. If he thought his place in the team was under threat then that could well prompt his retirement from international football. In his position I would have packed England in years ago in order to do everything I could to prolong my time with Liverpool. Of course I see international football as an irritating distraction that pulls our players away at inconvenient times, often sends them back tired out or injured, and forces breaks in the league so some pathetic and meaningless…..yet money spinning friendly can be played.

    At this stage of his career I do think his decision to carry on playing for England will mean that Liverpool is getting short changed, he could likely play better & for longer if he called time on England.

  • Alonso

    I would like to name some players who will make it to the first list.

    Van der sar
    Terry (just before he retired)
    Aside from vds and maldini they aren’t 38 yet. But they are around or older then gerrard and still producing the goods!