Gerrard relishing a return

Having come so close to winning the Premier League last May, the Reds captain believes they have to start turning their promise into something more tangible with manager Brendan Rodgers in his third season in charge, writes Carl Markham.

Steven Gerrard lifting the Champions League trophy after that momentous night in Istanbul is the most iconic image in Liverpool’s recent history.

Back in 2005, the Reds produced a famous comeback to beat AC Milan on penalties and Gerrard got his hands on the most prized piece of silverware in European football.

Now, nearly a decade later, Gerrard is relishing a return to the competition.

The Reds, five-time European champions, are back among Europe’s elite for the first time in four years.

“When you watch the Champions League and you’re not involved there’s jealousy and envy seeing other players play on the big stage and hearing that Champions League music,” he said.

“You are competing against the best players in Europe and it is the number one competition in the world to play in.

“It is the trophy every player dreams of winning and because of the experience I have gained over the years I was so desperate to taste it again, even if it was just one more time.”

However, Gerrard will not settle for being a one-season wonder in the Champions League as the minimum requirement at Anfield this season is to secure their place for next year. But having come so close to winning the Premier League last May the Reds captain believes they have to start turning their promise into something more tangible as manager Brendan Rodgers begins his third season in charge.

“Without getting too carried away I think we are now a very good team and I think we can become excellent as there is still room for improvement,” he said in an interview with American network NBC.

“The rule at Liverpool is quite clear. You try to win every competition you enter. He (Rodgers) has been here for two years and I think he is desperate to get a trophy in the cabinet — that is goal number one.

“It is very important we maintain our place in the Champions League but after the journey we went on last year and the confidence we gained from it I think we are genuine title contenders as we have proved we can mix it with anyone in this league.”

Gerrard believes, irrespective of the signings they have made this summer, Rodgers remains a pivotal figure in any future success.

“Tactically he is very clever, reacts to situations, changes things for the better, see problems and adjusts things very quickly,” said the recently-retired England international.

“In the two years I have worked with him he is up there with the best of them and I’ve worked with (Rafael) Benitez, (Fabio) Capello, (Roy) Hodgson — big names.

“He can play any formation he wants to play as he knows he has the personnel and he is not scared to change formation from game to game or tinker with it as the game is going on.

“He is a players’ manager, a manager you want to work hard for and win for.

“He shows the players unbelievable respect, he treats them like his own children and creates an unbelievable atmosphere to work in.

“I have been blown away by how sharp he is in the dressing room, how quick he is to see a problem.”

PA Sport