The handling of a club legend in the winter of his career is a delicate task. For a one-club man like Steven Gerrard, the additional pressure on both the player and the organization is palpable, as there is an inevitability that he will see out the close of his career at the club but an unpredictability about how those final seasons might take shape. There is a delicate balance to be struck to ensure that he ends his playing career on a note befitting of the stature he has with the club and the fans.
Six months ago the prospect of a contract extension for Gerrard was just as assured as it is today, but the captain's form at the time left much hanging in the balance as to how much he could positively contribute as part of the Brendan Rodgers project. Today the opposite is true, where Gerrard has found an incredible vein of form that sees him second only to Luis Suarez in goals scored and topping the club's assist table, and Brendan Rodgers is ready to talk with the midfielder about his next contract.
"There's no doubt this is a player who has given so much to the club, but he's also got a lot more to give as well," Rodgers said. "His focus has been to concentrate on the team getting better and improving but it's obviously something I want him to know, that he's very much a part of what we are doing here, and that's something we will look at between now and the summer.
"He's not one of those who takes it easy once or twice in a week because he has a game. He has his foot to the floor every day. That's why he's the man and the player he is. He's an incredible player and I've never thought about replacing him because he has many more years left in him."
That Rodgers believes Gerrard could be LFC's equivalent to Ryan Giggs when it comes to marking birthdays while wearing a red shirt may seem slightly hyperbolic, but Gerrard's incredibly improved fitness this season — plus the aging painting of himself that he must have stashed in his attic — make this suggestion sound far less outlandish than it would have been last season.
"Players that go beyond a certain age have looked after themselves since they were 19 or 20," Rodgers explained. "It's not by accident. When it comes to the point when other players get injured and can't go on, they keep playing because they've looked after themselves.
"That is down to professionalism and commitment to their profession. Steven comes in every single day at the same time. He's like clockwork. I have never seen him give less than 150 per cent. He never has a lazy day."
Whether Gerrard would be happy taking a back-seat role similar to Giggs' in the last few seasons is uncertain. Smart money would wager the captain would want to be right there in the thick of things as a starter each week, but Jamie Carragher's own path to retirement is one example of a player who bleeds red but knows when it's time to take a back seat, if only temporarily. Last season was not stellar for Carra on the infrequent occasions he was selected over Daniel Agger or Martin Skrtel, but having regained a starting place this year based on many quality performances, his final season sees him going out on top just as he deserves to.
On current form, the idea of several more years of Steven Gerrard leading the team out of the tunnel at Anfield is as exciting as it is heart-warming. Gerrard's form, his physical fitness, and fan expectations are likely to become increasingly unpredictable the longer he plays, though, so proper management of all facets of Stevie's game will be of paramount importance.