Steven Gerrard Q&A: Best player you played with?

FILE - In this Thursday June 8, 2006 file photo, England midfielder Steven Gerrard speaks during a World Cup news conference at Mittelbergstadion in Buehlertal, Germany. Photo / AP
FILE - In this Thursday June 8, 2006 file photo, England midfielder Steven Gerrard speaks during a World Cup news conference at Mittelbergstadion in Buehlertal, Germany. Photo / AP

Steven Gerrard has reflected on his phenomenal career following his decision to retire from professional football.

The former Liverpool and England captain decided to hang up his boots following the end of his contract with LA Galaxy. We have transcribed a question and answer session featuring Gerrard, who was speaking to Gary Lineker in an exclusive interview for BT Sport.

He discussed his favourite managers, the best players he has played alongside, his highlights, his low points and the thought process behind his retirement.

Why have you decided to retire?

SG: 'There's a few reasons really. You're aware of this time coming, towards the end. The body starts talking to you. The pains and the aches get more regular. The way you feel out there on the pitch changes. Over the last few years I've felt myself slowing down, if you like, and I basically can't deliver what I used to deliver.

That becomes a bit frustrating as time goes on. I've listened to people over the years and they've always said, "always go with a tiny bit left, never overstay your welcome and play on too long where it becomes embarrassing". I can feel that's not too far away, so now is the right time.'

Was there a moment?

SG: 'In my last three or four months with the Galaxy I was getting too many injuries. I didn't really feel as sharp as I used to. The games were becoming more challenging, especially in altitude and heat... humidity. The travel was affecting me. It was more a period of time rather than one particular moment. In saying that, I've had a few moments in the last six months where I thought, "I didn't play well today" or "that guy got the better of me". I don't like saying that, so now's the right time.'

Will you miss it?
SG: '100 per cent. I'm the type of person who loves playing football, who loves the game. I love training on a daily basis. I love competing and I've absolutely loved the journey through the highs and lows over the years. I've loved every minute of it so I'm going to miss it immensely.'

Describe your emotions over having to retire
SG: 'I think very mixed at the moment. I'm a tad sad, because I'm not going to be out there on the pitch. I'm not going to be in the dressing room with the boys and all the banter and I'm not going out there to compete anymore. I'm not going to be in front of those huge crowds and have them incredible moments, the highs that are beautiful as a footballer. At the same time, I'm proud and happy. I've achieved many many things I never thought I'd get near. I keep telling myself I'm a boy from a council estate who had dreams of playing for my hometown club. I keep going back to there and I'm very grateful for how it's gone.'

You mention those highs... which is the best of those moments?
SG: 'Obviously the Champions League in Istanbul in 2005. Getting that fifth Champions League for Liverpool and the trophy that we keep forever. It was a dream just to be involved in the ride and the journey, but to get the cup at the end of it, and the game, probably the best Champions League final ever to watch was a miracle really.

'The nice thing for me was that I contributed big in the game. Being the captain there was a lot of pressure that I had to deliver in that game. Looking back on it I'm really pleased with how it went.

'There were a lot of brutal lows that took a lot out of me as well. The Chelsea game. That's one that will haunt me for a long time. The complete opposite to the feelings of the Champions League where you're on this incredible high. The Chelsea game, that being a pivotal moment, it felt like a disaster had happened in my life.'

One of few players to play over 100 games for your country. What were your highs for England?

SG: 'Every time you put the shirt on, representing... you are asked many times by children and people out there what it's like to play for England. Until you actually put that shirt on for the first time and then do it on a regular basis, it's difficult to describe. Representing your country and millions and millions of people, that was another dream that I achieved.

'To do it over 100 times was incredible for me. Looking back over my England career it was mixed, like most people's are. You have your Germany 5-1 results that you feel really great about, but you have your shootout heartbreaks, or for example under Steve McClaren when we didn't qualify. You have them brutal lows again. It's part and parcel of being a footballer. You are always going to have those highs and lows.'

Looking back on your own career, describe your main strengths as a player...

SG: 'I'm not really one for being big headed or that type of person. For me, I felt like I could do a little bit of everything. I wouldn't say that I was the best goalscoring midfielder out there, I wouldn't say I was the best defensive midfielder out there, but what I would say is I could do a bit of everything.

'I could head, I could tackle, I could run, I could pass over different distances. I could nick a goal. I think that was my strength. Having the body and endurance to do a little bit of everything.'

Weakness in your game?

SG: 'I think my weakness in my early years, and Rafa Benitez pointed that out quite cleverly, was probably discipline, in terms of losing my position as a central midfielder too easily. Also maybe emotions, controlling my emotions. In terms of stupid yellow cards, stupid red cards - I've let my team-mates down on a few occasions.

'They're the things that I look back on and wish I could go back and correct them things to have a totally smooth career. But who is out there that has that perfect career? I'm not sure there's many.'

You ended your career at LA Galaxy, but predominantly you will always be remembered as a Liverpool player. Any regrets on that? You could have moved?

SG: 'I sit here now with no regrets in terms of how the whole career went. I get quite a bit of stick along the way for not winning the Premier League. I look back at the opportunities I had to go back to the strongest teams in the league. I would probably be sitting here with four or five Premier League medals.

'I could have went abroad to the big teams and gone and chased that glory but it's also satisfying to know that I did stay loyal to the people that are most important to me. I didn't chase cash or I didn't chase the glory. Of course I'm sitting here with that one big regret, that I didn't win the Premier League, but at the same time I'm very satisfied with my own loyalty.'

What did Liverpool mean to you?
SG: 'The world. I started supporting the club at a very young age. A lot of my family are Reds. The way the club shaped me and treated me from a very young age and turned me into a decent human being and a good footballer - I've got a lot to thank them for.'

Do you feel you're going to go into coaching rather than the television business, for example?

SG: 'I'd like to do a bit of both. Now I'm really excited to get back to work with BT and cover the Champions League and the Premier League. That's something that I've been looking forward to doing once I returned. In the future I definitely have aspirations of having a go at management or assisting a manager and being involved back in the dressing room. I've got many years to do that.'

You've played under many managers. Who would be the most influential, taking it into your managerial career?
SG: 'I think it'd be a bit disrespectful to pick one. I'd like to take a little bit from them all. Good and bad. I think you can learn a lot from managers where you have had a few disagreements or how they have handled you. You feel like you'd do it different.
'Rafa Benitez was certainly the best coach tactically that I worked under. But you have to do it your own way. The way you see the game, and basically use your experience as a player and the people that you learnt off to put that around your own way of doing it.'

Best player that you played with?
SG: 'Luis Suarez. By a mile. Phenomenal.'

Are you moving back?
SG: 'I'm going to be back with my family, based in Liverpool.'

Was it hard making the final decision to end it?
SG: 'Yeah it was, because as I say, I'd love to have a few games in the future to play in, I am going to miss it. It's not as if I'm out on my knees and I can't move anymore. I could still play at a certain level but the level I like playing at is the top. I like to find consistency and I don't like to let people down. Before that starts happening more regularly, I think it's time to call it a day.'

- Daily Mail

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