Jamie Carragher might be headed off to join Sky Sports once the season ends, but as long as Fenway Sports Group are in charge at Anfield there will always be an open door policy when it comes to the retiring local legend who is preparing for his 737th and final game as a Liverpool player.
There had been some speculation Carragher would reconsider his retirement decision given 2012-13 has seen the defender rediscover something of his best form after a few difficult seasons. In the end, though, he remained determined to go out on his own terms.
"He wants to leave the party before the last call and I understand that," said managing director Tom Werner when asked about Carragher and his future by the Liverpool Echo. "I have nothing but admiration for him—both on and off the field. He’s a unique individual and I think finding another player just like him will be impossible.
"We wish Jamie well in his new career and the door will always be open for him at Liverpool. I really hope we see him back at the club one day because with all that experience and knowledge we know he has so much to offer. Whether it’s as a coach, an analyst, or whatever, there will always be a job for him here."
When the whistle blows to end Sunday's match against QPR, it will go into the record books as Carragher's 737th appearance for the club, standing him second all time in appearances for Liverpool. His 150 appearances in European competition are a club record.
He will retire with winners' medals for the UEFA Cup, two each for the Super Cup, Community Shield, and FA Cup, and is a three-time League Cup winner. And, of course, there is 2005's Champions League winners' medal and the heroic performance he gave to secure it.
"To spend 16 years in the first team at Liverpool is testament to Jamie’s professionalism," added Werner of a man who will go down as one of the club's Premier League greats alongside the likes of Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler, and Sami Hyypia. "He really is an extraordinary person and a man of remarkable integrity. His love for the club is such that he has always put Liverpool first.
"I was talking to Gerard Houllier at a football dinner a few months ago and what he said was absolutely spot on. He said that everyone knows all about Jamie’s work ethic and how fantastic that is. But Gerard said that in addition to his leadership qualities he felt that technically Jamie had been under-rated.
"He’s been a defender of great talent and has had an illustrious career. Very few players in sports have a career like Jamie. It’s extremely rare in any sport for someone to dedicate their whole career to one club, especially in an age where loyalty tends to be secondary to other considerations."
Carragher will be missed, but in a strong final season he has helped to lay the foundations for the club to once again move forward after a few seasons spent struggling away from the highest levels of English and European football. And wherever he goes in the coming years, hopefully sooner or later he'll take up the club's open offer to return in some capacity.