Last Friday brought a mad scurry of panic amongst Liverpool fans and susceptible journalists when Steven Gerrard gave an interview suggesting that he might play his football elsewhere next season if Liverpool don't offer him a new contract. It was a non-too-subtle attempt to use the press to grease the wheels a bit, but it was a strategy that worked.
Liverpool quickly let it be known that, no, they weren't going to just let the great Steven Gerrard walk away on a free transfer at the end of the season. Contract negotiations are now open and have quickly quelled any fear that the captain and long time club servant might finish out his days in anything other than Liverpool red. Fans will have their talisman, but the contract extension is purely about performance on and off the pitch.
"It’s certainly not sentimental," Rodgers said on the subject in speaking with the Liverpool Echo. "As a manager you can’t afford to do that. I just look at his contribution in the two and a half years I’ve been here. When I came in Steven was 32, had struggled with injury, hadn’t played consistently over a number of years and I came in and sold him the idea, the philosophy of how we wanted to work and his importance.
"In that period he’s been absolutely outstanding. The team maybe hasn’t played as well this year and there’s been a focus on Steven but he’s been absolutely brilliant for me, both on and off the field, as a leader and a captain."
With the number of young players in the squad — newly purchased as well as club veterans despite their young age — Gerrard's longevity and connection with the club is unmatched. It remains an area in which he can retain massive influence over his teammates in the next few years, and it's something Rodgers is eager to continue tapping into as the club go through the growing pains of this season.
"I want to ensure on this second curve we’re on, in terms of the development of this group, that he is very much a part of that," Rodgers explained. "You see some of his passes and his influence in the changing room - he is still an outstanding player. He will be 35 at the end of this season but he is still fresh, he still looks after himself really well and technically and tactically he is a big player for us. He is the perfect example for our young players to learn from."
Some might argue about Gerrard's freshness playing at least twice if not three times a week on occasion this season, but it's clear that for better or worse Rodgers still envisions a large role for his captain this season and beyond.