Two English legends are headed to opposite coasts of the Untied States and are set to take Major League Soccer by storm.
One is fresh off the very first transfer of his career after spending his entire soccer life at Liverpool. Steven Gerrard has had an illustrious career in Red, and now suits up for the LA Galaxy, likely to make his debut this weekend against Club America in an International Champions Cup friendly at StubHub Center.
The other comes over from spells at Chelsea and Manchester City which saw him become one of England’s most complete midfielders. Frank Lampard was meant NYCFC career at home as well, against Toronto FC this weekend at Yankee Stadium, but has picked up a calf injury and will likely have to wait a week.
The kicker is they’re 35 and 37 years old. What do they have left in the tank? Gerrard looked to be slightly fading down the stretch of his final Premier League season, and while Lampard scored a handful of goals off the bench for Manchester City, he failed to make any serious impact for 90 minutes. So what will Major League Soccer be getting?
Like I said, Gerrard and Lampard are the same … but at the same time, very different.
For many, the Gerrard-or-Lampard debate wasn’t purely down to which team you supported or whom you preferred as a player. It reflected your social class and beliefs in post-millennium Britain. Lampard is a self-confessed supporter of the Conservative party, while Gerrard comes from the heartland of the British Labour party. But put aside their vastly contrasting socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds and one thing that isn’t different is their desire to win.
Gerrard rose through Liverpool’s academy and despite being knocked back at a young age as the likes of Michael Owen and others were pushed on to the national stage, he persisted with his game and had to curb a violent streak which almost saw him thrown off of the club for numerous incidents related to reckless tackling. Now you know where the “Steve Gerrard, Gerrard. He’ll pass the ball 40-yards. He’s big and he’s f***ing hard. Steve Gerrard, Gerrard,” song comes from (sung to the tune of “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).”
Lampard speaks of doing his “spikes” each and every day throughout his time growing up. He would put on special running shoes and run sprints until his lungs were about to burst. His father gave him inside tips on how to succeed in soccer, but the elder Lampard could only do so much. From a young age the younger Lampard had that desire to succeed, but also the ability and soccer brain to go with it. However, ask any West Ham United fan today what they think of Lampard. It’s unlikely to be a particularly pleasant exchange.
The two will now enter a totally different style of soccer, one that has the potential to lengthen great careers, but also one that has the potential to swallow those same greats whole.
With Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard expected to make their respective debuts for New York City FC and the LA Galaxy this weekend, there is a lot of talk about “star power” right now across Major League Soccer.
Following the signing of Andrea Pirlo from Juventus, the guys over at New York City FC are doing this thing big with another huge Designated Player on the books. Pirlo, 36, has been named Serie A’s MVP for three of the last four seasons and is fresh off leading Juve’s charge to the Champions League final this campaign.
The World Cup winner is getting on a bit, but his talent is undoubted and his status as a star will see the eyes of soccer fans around the world descend on Yankee Stadium as he lines up with David Villa and Frank Lampard later this month. “No Pirlo, no party,” shirts will soon be popping up across Manhattan like nobody’s business, that’s for sure.
Below, as we did previously when LA Galaxy announced that Steve Gerrard would be joining them for their inaugural 2015 season, we have ranked the top 10 biggest signings in MLS history. Remember, we are basing this list purely on the players’ superstar status and not solely on their output. Of course, other players who aren’t at this superstar level will have, and have had, a big impact on MLS — Sebastian Giovinco, I’m looking at you — but we are just looking at the icons of world soccer who have sauntered into North America in their droves since the DP as introduced in 2007 to show off their skills.
Eight of the top 10 will suit up in MLS in 2015, which is exciting for everyone. Also, Tim Cahill was knocked out of our former top 10 after Pirlo’s arrival. Sorry, Tim.
Do you agree with this list? Which players would you add into the mix? Let us know in the comments section below.
All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.
For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, it’s time to take a look back at — in no particular order — 10 storylines that helped make the Premier League season a memorable one.
10. Pardiola — Newcastle United started very poorly this season, and the Magpies’ fan base was livid with high-talking manager Alan Pardew before a five-game win streak pushed the club from the bottom to the top half.
Pardew’s departure for Crystal Palace was met with good humor by the Toon Army. That changed to misery when Pardew led the Eagles from the bottom to a 10th place finish, while Newcastle absolutely fell apart over a string of miserable performances under former Toronto FC boss John Carver.
9. Saintly surprises — Perhaps its fitting that some Saints and a Monk featured in ‘miraculous’ seasons for Southampton and Swansea City. Though they faded down the stretch, Southampton was expected to fall apart after selling stars Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw. Instead, they contended for the Top Five all year under new boss Ronald Koeman (left).
And how about Swans under Garry Monk? The former player helmed the club to survival last season and then spearheaded one of the most fun sides in the league this season. Swansea finished eighth despite selling Wilfried Bony in January, as Monk coaxed career years out of Ki Sung-yeung, Jonjo Shelvey and Ashley Williams amongst others.
8. Catch for us the Foxes — Nigel Pearson was as good as fired, you know? And wasn’t Leicester City as good as in the Championship? Nope. Left for the managerial scrapheap after a “choking” incident with Crystal Palace’s James McArthur and a long string of poor results, Pearson orchestrated a big winning streak that allowed the Foxes to clinch safety before Championship Sunday.
7. Style vs. Title — As Chelsea’s forward corps dealt with injuries, the soccer world turned to debate whether their title should count, what with Arsenal flying up-and-down the pitch but not within sight of the first-place Blues. It was a horrible debate that pretended Chelsea was constantly hanging back in Tony Pulis-like banks of four, across the 18 and begging for a single mercy point.
6. Quitting QPR — Harry Redknapp and Queens Park Rangers’ return to the Premier League lasted less than a season, as the Loftus Road club saw its brash manager skip town at the end of the January transfer window on account of wonky knees. QPR could not rebound to safety, as Redknapp left another club in the lurch.
5. Timmy Tactics — Tim Sherwood somehow got the Spurs job last season, then caused a fuss when he battered the club for not giving him a long-term deal. His name was bandied about for seemingly every potential opening in England, before landing at Aston Villa where he… actually got the club humming to safety. His longterm prospects are still a major question, but “Timmy Tactics” can put the first-half of 2015 in the win column, and he can still guide his club to an FA Cup title.
4. Struggles in (and for) Europe — Liverpool failed to make the Round of 16, while its three UEFA Champions League peers were gone by the end of the first knockout round.
The Reds were bounced from their group by Real Madrid and Basel, and nearly finished bottom of the group. Arsenal went down big to Monaco before “almost” climbing back. Manchester City fell to Barcelona over a yawn-worthy two legs of effort, while Chelsea fell to PSG on away goals.
Certainly more is expected in 2015 with Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.
As for Europa, all English contenders fell in the competition, and there was question as to whether anyone wanted in the competition moving forward. Down the stretch, and be honest, did you wonder whether Southampton and Tottenham were trying to qualify for the Europa League, or avoid the tournament altogether?
3. Don’t call it a comeback — Louis van Gaal is getting a lot of love for Manchester United’s resurgence to the UEFA Champions League after buying Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and others, but is his six points better finish that much more impressive than hard-luck David Moyes’ 2013-14 campaign? It’s worth discussing, as replacing Sir Alex Ferguson has now seen two seasons as the lesser-finishing side in Manchester.
2. Wire-to-wire — While some were debating their “boring” nature, Jose Mourinho was masterminding Chelsea’s unquestioned dominance. The Blues went from start to finish as the Premier League’s top club, with debatably the best forward (Diego Costa), attacker (Eden Hazard), destroyer (Nemanja Matic), back (John Terry) and keeper (Thibaut Courtois). You don’t have to like those characterizations, or agree, but in terms of being in the debate, there is no doubt. Special One? Indeed.
1. Stevie G — Here’s another thing you don’t have to like, but there’s no doubt Steve Gerrard was a bit part of the season’s headlines from opening day (Could he come back from “The Slip”?) to mid-season European flopping (Are they better without him in the lineup?) and finally his exhaustively-covered departure from Anfield (Did Ryan Giggs or Frank Lampard get this sort of service last year?).
Still, Liverpool’s hero left Anfield with class, and will now begin his adventure in the United States.
Bonus storylines: Harry Kane; Frank Lampard’s no-celebration vs. Chelsea; the Blues’ swarming referees like bees; Burnley nearly punches above its weight; Sunderland survives thanks to Advocaat; West Ham surges forward, then falls flat; Jonas Gutierrez returns from cancer.
VIDEO: Recapping Gerrard’s emotional day at Anfield from open to close
LIVERPOOL — “Steve Gerrard, Gerrard. He’ll pass the ball 40-yards. He’s big and he’s f***ing hard. Steve Gerrard, Gerrard.”
As Steven Gerrard walked out onto the Anfield pitch for the final time with his daughters holding his hands through a guard of honor from the playing and coaching staffs of both Liverpool and Crystal Palace, that famous song sung to the tune of “Que Sera, Sera” thundered around the terraces. Serenaded by Liverpool’s faithful, mosaics simply stating “Captain” filled the Centenary Stand, plus “SG” and the number eight was emblazoned across the Kop along with a number of banners depicting Gerrard’s greatest moments in a Liverpool shirt over the years.
It was a sight to behold and a fitting farewell to perhaps the greatest player in Liverpool’s history, as Gerrard addressed the fans after the game.
“I am absolutely devastated I am never going to play in front of these supporters again,” Gerrard reflected. “The moment you play for the first time for Liverpool is an absolute dream come true and anything else after that is a bonus for me… Before the tears come, I’d like to thank the fans. These supporters here stand out more than any. I’ve played in front of most supporters around the world, but you are the best.”
On Saturday, the day of his final game for Liverpool at Anfield, there was a buzz in and around the stadium as banners and scarves saluting Gerrard lined the streets. All round the city people were wearing Liverpool shirts with Gerrard and his famous number eight on the back. The sense of occasion was strong in a stadium which has seen so many great moments over the years. The overall mood was one of celebration but it was also somber as Liverpool’s leading man for nearly two decades would never maraud around these parts in a red shirt again.
Following all of the rigmarole and procession of Saturday’s match, Gerrard looked emotionally drained during the game and the occasion seemed to weigh heavy on him. When Adam Lallana gave Liverpool the lead in the 26th minute the first person he ran to was Gerrard. The joy on Lallana’s face said it all, Liverpool’s players wanted to send Gerrard off in the best way possible but they couldn’t manage it. In the 64th minute he curled a shot towards the bottom corner which lacked the desired pace to beat Wayne Hennesey. Gerrard was moved into an advanced midfield position late in the game by Brendan Rodgers but despite a few surging runs — which were cheered on by home fans screaming “go on lad!” — there wasn’t going to be a fairytale ending to his Anfield career as Liverpool lost 3-1 to Palace but his name was sung loud and proud in the final minutes of the match.
The hometown hero has carried the weight of expectation squarely on his shoulders for the majority of his 17 years as a professional at Liverpool. Gerrard, 34, has been with the Reds since the age of nine and on Saturday his emotional farewell sparked scenes of celebration and sadness around one of world soccer’s most hallowed stadiums.
Gerrard has chosen to move to the United States of America and start a new life with the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer. Many feel that he should have remained at Liverpool for another one or two seasons and then retired but Gerrard has made his decision and the U.S. awaits this summer.
On the surface, the decision to leave Liverpool in his mid-30s to move abroad for the first time in his career seems like a strange one but the fact of the matter is, Gerrard has spent his entire life in Liverpool. His childhood, adolescence and adult life has been consumed by one thing: Liverpool Football Club. Born and raised just 6.5 miles from Anfield, Gerrard has admitted that his entire life all he ever wanted to do was play for Liverpool. That hunger and drive saw him break into the first team as a teenager in 1998 and he has remained their ever since.
As he strode around Anfield at the end of the game and applauded every stand and looked up to the vast rafters of the Kop wistfully, Gerrard’s bond with the fans seems unbreakable. That’s because it is. He’s one of them. Through the good times and the bad. When Liverpool fans mourned the 96 fans lost in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, Gerrard’s family mourned more than most. Gerrard’s younger cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest victim of the Hillsborough disaster and Gerrard ended his 2006 autobiography with the simple yet powerful sentence: “I play for Jon-Paul.”
Gerrard also explained that the death of his cousin in the greatest soccer tragedy in English history had a huge impact on his career. “It was difficult knowing one of your cousins had lost his life,” Gerrard said. “Seeing his family’s reaction drove me on to become the player I am today.”
Liverpool and Gerrard go hand in hand. Like Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers. Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees. One of the greatest, most successful and prestigious clubs in the world has lent on a local lad for inspiration for nearly two decades but now, reluctantly, it’s time move on. He had chances to leave Liverpool for more trophies and success as Chelsea, Real Madrid and others came calling but each and every time Gerrard refrained from walking out on his club, his people, and instead stuck around to drag them to success time and time again. He epitomizes the one-club man and in modern day soccer, he may be one of the last to dedicate himself to Liverpool the way he has. The likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were legendary figures at Manchester United but both weren’t treated like this in their final home matches for United.
Before and after the game another song was belted out to signify Gerrard’s stature among Liverpool’s loyal supporters.
“Steven Gerrard is our captain. Steven Gerrard is a Red. Steven Gerrard plays for Liverpool. Scouser born and bred.”
From his memorable goal and performance in the incredible UEFA Champions League final win of 2005 to his stunning last-gasp goal in the 2006 FA Cup final, Gerrard dragged Liverpool out of trouble time and time again. Despite captaining England at two World Cups and representing the Three Lions 114 times, he never really had the same influence as he did with the Reds.
Gerrard’s hometown club and the people in it has always seemed to bring out the best in him.
The City of Liverpool (the red half, anyway) has embraced ‘Stevie G’ since day one and his image as the local lad come good resonated with every Liverpool fan and most soccer fans around the world. Everybody wants to see one of their own succeed and Gerrard has certainly done that, and more, after winning 11 trophies with Liverpool and captaining the club for the last 12 years. His humble demeanor has remained throughout his career and although sour looks and crunching tackles have kept his hard-man status on the field intact — he even left room for a few of those late in the game on Saturday — Gerrard’s personality off it reflects his hometown. Determined. Full of grit. And hard as nails.
Gerrard was heavy-hearted as he was given a standing ovation by the 44,000-plus fans at Anfield on Saturday. As he walked across the hallowed turf for one final time as a Liverpool player and down the tunnel, it was a real lump in the throat moment as grown men wept in the stands. For fans of a certain age, they will have grown up wanting to replicate Gerrard’s success. They will have worn the No. 8 jersey because Gerrard did. And they will have wanted to play soccer because Gerrard did. He was, and will be for quite some time, an inspiration to millions around the world. His loyalty, dedication and professionalism were the benchmarks of one the greatest careers the PL has ever seen.
Some legendary players have called Anfield home over the years. Kenny Dalglish. Graeme Souness. Ian Rush. Phil Neal. Kevin Keegan. Years from now — and even over the past few years it has started happening — Gerrard’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as those greats. Nobody knows what the future may bring, if Gerrard may return to the Reds as a manger one day or in another capacity, but his name will forever be inextricably linked with Liverpool Football Club.
For the local lad who grew up supporting Liverpool and captained them for most of his career, Gerrard may have said goodbye to Anfield as a player but his heart will always remain with his boyhood club. And every fan of his boyhood club will forever have memories of Gerrard’s greatness etched into their own hearts.
He inspired. He conquered. Gerrard lived for Liverpool Football Club and despite his farewell on Saturday, his heart will always remain at Anfield.