Man-love. It's a wondrous thing. An utterly pure entity based on admiration and affection, man-love is the cornerstone of many male bonds, from hero worship to lifelong friendship. You see, you know where you are with man-love, gentle reader. There are no agendas, no politics, no bloody angles. It's an uncomplicated emotion, solely based on thinking another chap is simply marvellous. Now, it may be hidden beneath the multiple faux-macho veneers us emotionally awkward blokes like to use as facades, but it is unmistakable -- a beacon of unadulterated esteem and approbation that screams, "I love you man!"
Few men will have inspired as many varieties of love as Steven Gerrard. The gifted midfielder is one of the iconic figures of the world game and Liverpool Football Club has been fortunate to have him as a totemic presence over a decade and a half. Debates have raged over that time as to where his undeniable excellence is best harnessed and the lines of this piece are not an appropriate home for such ruminations.
Suffice it to say that whilst many, your scribbler amongst them, have questioned the effectiveness of the club captain in his current role, there can be very few who wouldn't ink his name first on their team sheet, irrespective of the berth he occupies. Simply put, he's a magnificent footballer. He's Liverpool's magnificent footballer.
Brendan Rodgers, never one to shy from displays of loquaciousness, is chief amongst the captain's fans and he has been ever-willing to tell any audience about his skipper's multifarious gifts. He entrusted the number eight from minute-one with the central role he has always craved, just as Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson had before him. Rodgers is a highly politic man, however, only six years older than Gerrard, and it was no surprise that he embraced the captain as a confidant and selected him in the engine room when he first arrived.
However, in the interim, Rodgers has shown himself to be capable of making tough decisions and many have been surprised that he has persevered with the legend as part of a central and deep-lying duo. Rodgers, by contrast is unequivocal in his admiration of what the England leader brings to his team. Speaking at his pre-Newcastle United press conference, the Liverpool manager was almost evangelical in his language, as he tried to articulate to the assembled hacks just how awe-inspiring Steven Gerrard really is.
"It's remarkable really," he gushed. "You saw him in the game during the week as well. What gets lost with Steven sometimes is that people talk about him as this great captain and a great leader, and what people forget is that he's still a world-class player. He's got big talent. He scored what you would probably say was a typical Gerrard goal the other night -- breaking forward with power and pace and just when it looked like it was getting away from him, he reached and got his toe to it with a great finish."
Rodgers then, is not only cognisant of the inspirational qualities and undisputed skills of his captain, he goes further and suggests that Gerrard is the outstanding footballer he has ever interacted with professionally. In fact the Northern Irishman paints a vivid picture of an almost Christ-like, selfless and philanthropic individual.
"He's probably the best player that I've worked with," enthused the boss. "The quality he can play when the tempo is really high in a game is incredible. He's a remarkable man and a remarkable captain. I've been fortunate enough to have worked with top, world class players at Chelsea and some brilliant technicians when I was at Swansea. England should be honoured to have someone like that represent them on and off the field. I've said it before and I'll repeat it again -- he looks after himself so well and he's so professional and he's still got a number of years left to turn in great performances.
"He always thinks of others. He's a wonderful example for the players there. Steven doesn't say a great deal, but when he does, the senior players around him and all the players will listen. He's a respected figure. But there's no doubt that he takes a real responsibility within the group and he doesn't just think about himself. Liverpool and England have benefited from that."
It is interesting to have Rodgers confirm that, despite having notable gravitas, Gerrard is essentially a quiet soul. Even in the dressing room in Istanbul, ahead of perhaps his most iconic performance, Xabi Alonso and Jamie Carragher were more vocal. Similarly, on the pitch, it is only in recent seasons that we have seen the captain chatter and moan his way through a game. The idea of the garrulous rabble-rouser as captain is an out-moded one though, and Gerrard's style has always been to lead by example rather than exhortation.
You may debate his merits all day if you will, and I will join the conversation, but over a remarkable career, there is no argument that the captain has generally shown his team-mates the way in a most emphatic fashion. In fact, so outstanding has he been over so many years that many of us old duffers often gently resented him for being the reason folk referred to our beloved Redmen as a one-man team. He was actually that good, however, and he continues, as Rodgers points out, to be a wonderful footballer. It is the solemn hope of this Red that Steven Gerrard finally lifts the Premier League trophy aloft with that ecstatic grin glinting brighter than the pot itself, thus inspiring man-love in a whole new generation of those who support Liverpool Football Club.