Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Counterpoint: Gerrard's going nowhere

As David Brent once said, "A good idea is a good idea... forever."

Except when it isn't.

When it comes to ideas, ones that aren't utter crap (examples of utter crap ideas being New Coke or the 39th int'l PL match) generally fall into one of three categories: Those who are ahead of their Time (anything Nikolas Tesla conceived), those whose Time have arrived (Obama for President), and those whom Time have left by the wayside (The Pet Rock).

Now, the very idea that Liverpool Football Club would sell its captain, generally recognized the world over as one of the top midfielders in today's game (by rational peoples and those not under the delusion that Frank Lampard is a better player), would be complete poppycock. But, since this mind-boggling scenario actually almost came to pass some three years ago, it would have to be classified within the latter of the categories.

Yet, just like it was back then, it's still an absolutely crap idea.

Like his talents, the problems with selling Steven Gerrard are numerous.

Generally speaking, big football clubs do not attempt to gain success (i.e. silverware) by parting with their best player. Why? Because, making your team worse does not tend to make your team better. And, teams who aren't winning silverware are unlikely to start winning silverware when they become markedly worse then they were when they already weren't winning silverware.

I know it's a tricky concept, but I've got faith that even an Evertonian can grasp it.

Liverpool (of which I am obviously a fan and will often refer to as 'we' from here on out) are not in the habit of selling our star players for a handsome profit. We're Liverpool, not Tottenham. Regardless of present stumbles, we're not a feeder club for 'bigger' fish. (As Carra would say, 'Who's bigger than Liverpool?') Regardless of current debt, we don't value success on the books over success on the pitch. We're already one of the world's top clubs because we have a history of success & silverware. And, you don't enjoy either without having incredible talent on the field.

Name a top, ambitious European club, in recent modern football, who has sold a star player (in their prime and not because of a personal falling out... I'm looking at you, SAF) and gone on to win more trophies in the immediate future.

I'm not going to wait for you to Google it, either.

Did you say United and Beckham?

Get out. Right now. No, really...

Milan sold Shevchenko and went on to win the 2007 Champions League. But, Andriy was on the doorstep of 30, an age at which strikers generally tend to begin their descent. While success post-sale isn't improbable, as exceptions to the rule must exist, most team's cupboards are not over-stocked with so much talent as to survive a major defection.

What's that you say? You actually have the nerve to doubt Gerrard's credentials? You think he's over-rated? You don't actually rate him at all?

I won't make a rash statement such as 'he's the best player of his generation' or 'England's best talent', but to dismiss his obvious talent(s) is pure folly. No player is perfect and Stevie G certainly has his share of foibles (let's be honest, he's taken a few dives in his day... but he's no C Ronaldo). But, when the conversation turns to which players you'd built a starting XI around, he has to be on that list. A true box-to-box midfielder, comfortable on both sides of the ball, he can tackle with the best of them at one end (or anywhere) and crash into the box to net a breath-taking match winner on the other. He most certainly rates as one of the most talented and industrious midfield players (let alone, attack-minded central midfielders) playing the game today.

There are those who would argue that selling Stevie G would provide LFC with a finanical windfall that would allow them to go purchase more talented players.

How much would Gerrard realistically fetch in today's market?

On the very highest (and improbable) end, maybe £30m - £35m? How many world-class talents can you buy with that? Any proven talent of that level has a price tag that starts after 20 large. Fernando Torres cost Liverpool upwards of 26 million. So, with the money you receive from sending Captain Fantastic on his way, you'd basically be swapping him for another big name and have roughly ten million pounds left to buy another Ryan Babel (but, not even). Unless, you're Professor Wenger and can pull another talented teenager out of your hat.

But don't take my word for it (cue 'Reading Rainbow' theme song here)... Scouse, born and bred, Lingering Bursitis puts it even more succinctly:

"We don't need the extra money, we don't need to rebuild from scratch, and regardless of if we got 40 million pounds+ for him, which we could then use to fix several key areas, are there really any guarantees that such a videogame-esque gamble would amount to anything?"
There are those who would argue that Stevie G is actually the root of Liverpool's problems (and having won every medal except one, that could only mean 'inability to win the Premier League'). They say the team depends upon him too much, but his emotions are too mercurial and his moods affect the team's overall pysche and disrupts its consistency.

Well, he most certainly does affect the team's psyche. With match-winning goal after match-winning goal, with inspirational performance after inspirational performance, the team definitely depends on him and responds to his efforts. That's why he's our captain. No one player is perfect -- everybody will have off-days. But, I know he's ready to play for the club, shirt and fans each time he laces up his boots and each time he takes the field, anything is possible. So, I'll take the good with the bad, the wins with the losses and the beauty with the warts.

Every club should be as lucky to have a Steven Gerrard; A player who came up through the ranks, who is a local boy, who understands what the club means to the fans and understands its history. How many top clubs have a player of his magnitude, his talent, his importance that IS a fan of the club, that IS from the immediate area? Do you have any idea how big of a deal it is that two of Liverpool top players are Scousers like Gerrard and Carragher? Because, if you don't understand what that means, then you should just go back to rooting for Chelsea.

Lingering Bursitis breathes another breath of fresh air into the argument...

"Selling Gerrard is wrong because it does nothing to fix the problem at the club. It solves nothing, while simultaneously ridding us of our best player, our talisman, and one of the last remaining Scousers we actually have on the team. It'd be the death of the old guard, the death of the club's attachment and vestiges to the local area, and it would be the most cynical move, motivated purely by money.

For branding it's terrible, and really, it makes us just as bad as the other Big 4 clubs, particularly those in London, who have long since traded all sense of their character and history for a bunch of over-priced, over-paid mercenaries who couldn't give two shits which shirt they're wearing as long as they're making 50 grand a week."

To have seen him progress from a talented teen plagued by back and groin problems into the next potential England captain truly has been special. My only hope is that after seeing him hoist trophy after trophy, we'll see him raise that elusive one in the none-too-distant-future.

Alfred Whitney Griswold once said "The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” Selling Steven Gerrard is a bad idea. Like my colleague has already stated, Liverpool may have its problems but those problems aren't going to get fixed by selling #8.

A better idea is to buy and cultivate more players with Steven Gerrard's talents (and El Nino's!).


Ian said...

Well this post is certainly smart looking now, eh? I think the real problem at Liverpool is that they don't have enough 20 million pound players...

JT said...

Ian, what makes a 20 million pound player into a 20 million pound player? The market.

We have plenty of solid, bankable talent that might not be 20 million pounds in price tag or perceived value, but I think that just saying we don't have enough "20 million" guys is a little flimsy.

Barnsley certainly didn't need any of those against us on Saturday, did they?

This helped to complete the healing process.