Liverpool's difficult season has taken a backseat over the past few days to news that Steven Gerrard will be leaving at season's end--individual and collective struggles likely played a part in the captain's decision, but that's all been set aside for a preemptive remembrance for a man who will draw his career to a close in May. Best case scenario at this point is that they rally together to earn a spot in the top four and a trophy in one of the three remaining cup competitions, which would mean they leave the difficult season narrative for good.
That might be overly optimistic, but it is possible that they go on a run inspired by news of their captain's departure. After he's gone, however, they start the difficult task of replacing him. In terms of his presence, role, and what he represents at the club, there's just no way. He means too much to too many people, and has done so for far too long for them to try to do so.
In terms of physical abilities, though, they might be able to, and while there's plenty of midfield talent in the current squad, Jamie Carragher has a suggestion for a transfer target that could eventually match the captain in his prime:
Enough of Gerrard now he's leaving. Replacement has to be Ross Barkley offer 10 million go to 12 tops job done.— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) January 3, 2015
Just some delightful trolling from the former Liverpool defender, who's used Twitter to excellent effect since joining, often to the irritation of opposing clubs' supporters.
Gerrard's former vice-captain struck a more serious note earlier in the day in his column for the Daily Mail, however, openly questioning the club's handling of Gerrard and asserting that they should have done more to keep him around until he retired:
"In terms of getting more playing time, I can also see why he is leaving. I have spoken to him on many occasions about the transition from being one of the first names on the teamsheet to having your appearances managed. It is difficult and that, in all honesty, was the main reason I retired. He is now missing one game in three and, in all likelihood, next season that would have risen to one in two. Steven is not someone who would be comfortable just sitting on the bench and, in that sense, he has made the right decision. Still, I cannot help feeling Liverpool's hierarchy should have done more to ensure he remained at Anfield. Surely they could have come up with an arrangement that would have benefited all parties in the short and long term?"
Given all that Gerrard has stated publicly, it doesn't necessarily seem as though the club could have done much more. Supporters won't be privy to discussions held between management and players, but judging off of Brendan Rodgers' words over the last few days, it seemed as though they tried their best to keep him around within the structure of what would be a reduced playing role. That's similar to what Carragher's suggesting here, and it hinges on Gerrard's willingness to accept fewer minutes.
In the end, that's at the heart of the issue, and it's not a reality that Steven Gerrard was willing to accept. Had he been, he would have likely seen out his career where it began in a role not too dissimilar to the one Carragher proposes. Possibly even with the chance to coach Ross Barkley after Liverpool buy him for £10m this summer.