Steven Gerrard is set to make the shock announcement that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, according to reports on Thursday.
Reds captain Gerrard’s Anfield future has been the subject of speculation for several months and he is believed to have decided to continue his career overseas when his contract expires in the close-season.
The 34-year-old, who scored two penalties in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Leicester at Anfield, has already been linked with a move to MLS franchise LA Galaxy and a Daily Express report says he poised to go public on his plans on Friday to avoid speculation over his future becoming a distraction during the rest of the season.
Clubs from the Middle East will also express interest in Gerrard according to the report, with the former England midfielder free to speak to foreign sides since the first minute of 2015.
Former Liverpool teammate Jamie Carragher described Gerrard’s decision as a “sad day”.
“Sad day for Lfc & English football with the Gerrard news, I think it’s the right decision all things considered,” tweeted Carragher who himself made 737 appearances for Liverpool.
He added: “Leaving or retiring is a great confidence booster, this morning my timeline was full of “whys Gerrard starting” now it’s “Gerrard best ever”.
Gerrard’s announcement that he plans to leave his boyhood team, the only club he has played for in his illustrious professional career, will come as a huge blow to many Liverpool supporters who anticipated he would extend his playing career with the club by at least another year.
Liverpool offered Gerrard a new deal in November, but it is said he has decided the time is right to move on at the end of the campaign and experience something different.
Gerrard joined Liverpool as an eight-year-old and has made 695 appearances during a remarkable career at the club, scoring 180 goals, and lifted 11 trophies.
His greatest moment came when he scored in the Champions League final in 2005 and inspired Liverpool to come from 3-0 down at half-time against AC Milan and win the trophy on penalties.
But his hopes of winning the Premier League are likely to remain unfulfilled after Liverpool came up agonisingly short last season and lost out to Manchester City.
Gerrard returned to the starting line up for Thursday’s draw with Leicester after being rested for Monday’s win over Swansea.
But, with his performances below his previous high standards for much of this season, the prospect of being a substitute in more matches next season as manager Brendan Rodgers manages his fitness has helped shape his decision to quit Anfield.
The Express report says Gerrard, who famously turned down two moves to Chelsea during the first decade of the 21st century, will not play for another club in England out of respect for Liverpool.
Former England star Gary Lineker tweeted that the Anfield giants owed Gerrard a huge debt for his loyalty and his performances.
“So that’s it then, Gerrard is going. What a player he has been for Liverpool. Dragged teams to levels they’d never have reached without him,” said Lineker. – Agence France-Presse