Now past his 32nd birthday and with a medical file as thick as a whale omelette, he has begun at times to look ever-so-slightly past his best, in the field of physical stamina if not of spirit.
As several others have done before him, including Carra, it was thought that he might stand down from international duty in order to take the pressure off him, and attempt to spin out his club career as long as possible by judicious resting and careful therapy. English LFC fans have of course been in two minds about this.
But the picture seems to have changed this year. The John Terry fiasco left the national captaincy open and, though Scotty Parker did perfectly well in the role, it was always clear whose was the organising mind in midfield. As it is at Liverpool, of course – it isn’t just Stevie’s playing contribution we miss when he’s injured, it’s the combination of fighting spirit and footballing intelligence. He’s not an over-articulate or demonstrative man, but he’s definitely a leader. He was the obvious choice for captain for the Euro’s, and didn’t he play up to the role? He and Parker constituted a mighty engine in midfield; his set-pieces were devastating; his confidence in going up first at the penalty shoot-out was so natural and so inspired, it’s a pity his example wasn’t followed; and I saw a stat on Twitter claiming that no-one so far at the Euro’s has surpassed Stevie’s 18 successful tackles.
So the Lion of Liverpool continues to roar at the top level, even though it is clear that his role is being gradually adapted (Roy Hodgson, of course, has fairly up-to-date knowledge of his recent development). He still has all the moves as an attacking midfielder, but his legs are beginning to let him down. He’s looking more comfortable a bit deeper, ensuring proper cover for the back four and setting up attacks with those much-sung-about forty-yard passes. Leave others to do the hard yards up and down the pitch; Stevie will last England another year or two, hopefully until the World Cup, as a rock in mid-pitch and a set-piece specialist. In the latter role, and as captain, David Beckham still managed to make a decent contribution after his brilliance had begun to fade. (I can’t see Stevie ever becoming quite as metrosexual, though.)
That would be bold, but I hope it doesn’t happen. Every time Gerrard comes back from an injury or a bad trot of form, he manages to show that the sheer game-changing skill and power are still there. So I hope it isn’t sentimental to hope sincerely that the man who has given his life and wrecked his body for Liverpool won’t be packed off to the knacker’s yard. He’s surely got to be central to Rodgers’ efforts to bring on all those young players who are yet to show their full potential. And, like Kenny Dalglish before him, he’s probably not that much of a verbal communicator; the Gerrard type of leader has to lead by example. So rotate and rest him a bit by all means; but let’s see another two seasons from Our Man, for Liverpool and England both. And God spare his hamstrings!