Gerrard â€˜devastatedâ€™ after last Anfield game
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard told supporters he was â€œdevastatedâ€ about leaving the club during a heartfelt on-pitch address after his final game at Anfield on Saturday.
Gerrard, 34, will join the Los Angeles Galaxy in July after almost 17 years at his home-town club and following a 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace, he paid an emotional tribute to Liverpoolâ€™s fans.
â€œIt felt very strange. Iâ€™ve been dreading this moment. Iâ€™m going to miss it so much,â€ Gerrard told the crowd at a sunny, sold-out Anfield.
â€œIâ€™ve loved every minute. Iâ€™m absolutely devastated Iâ€™m never going to play in front of these supporters again.â€
He added: â€œIâ€™d like to thank everyone at the club whoâ€™s helped me over the last 17 years. There are too many people to name.
â€œI would like to thank all my team-mates, all the ex-players. Theyâ€™ve made me the player I am today.
â€œIâ€™ll save the last thanks to the most important people at the football club. These supporters stand out more than anyone.â€
He was then interrupted by cheers and applause from the fans, before continuing: â€œBefore I go, before the tears come, Iâ€™ve played in front of most supporters around the world, but let me tell you, youâ€™re the best.â€
Gerrard was joined on the pitch at the final whistle by his team-mates, all of whom wore shirts with his name and squad number, eight, on the back, before going on a lap of honour.
He was also presented with a keepsake by former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who handed Gerrard his debut against Blackburn Rovers in November 1998.
Liverpool took a 26th-minute lead through Adam Lallana, but Jason Puncheon equalised with a free-kick shortly before half-time and second-half goals from substitutes Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray gave Palace victory.
The defeat ended Liverpoolâ€™s paper-thin mathematical hopes of Champions League qualification, but Gerrard predicted a bright future for the club despite his imminent departure.
â€œThe clubâ€™s in good hands,â€ said the former England captain, who has made 709 Liverpool appearances and scored 185 goals since joining the club at the age of eight.
â€œWeâ€™ve two fantastic owners, Ian (Ayre, chief executive) underneath that and a fantastic manager in Brendan (Rodgers).
â€œThereâ€™s unbelievable potential in the squad. Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™s going to be new signings in the coming weeks.
â€œI just look at the players Iâ€™ve shared a dressing room with. I love them to death and I wish them every success in the future.â€
Rodgers said he was disappointed that Gerrard had not been able to sign off in winning fashion.
â€œHe gave everything right to the very end,â€ said the Northern Irishman, whose side visit Stoke City on the Premier League seasonâ€™s final day next weekend. â€œHe was the one driving forward, trying to get the goal.
It was a fantastic day for him and his family. But in terms of the performance, it was disappointing.â€
Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, in a hand-written note delivered to Gerrard, said: â€œYou are a great man and cool captainâ€¦It is a pleasure to leave free-kicks and penalties to you.â€
Meanwhile Jamie Carragher, Gerrardâ€™s former Liverpool team-mate and fellow member of the 700-plus appearances club, told Sky Sports: â€œSteven has basically been the fan on the pitch. Every kid who grows up wants to be Steven Gerrard.â€
Tributes to Gerrard didnâ€™t just come from England with Roma captain Francesco Totti, who played against the midfielder in European competition, telling the Italian sideâ€™s website: â€œI would put Gerrard among my top three players, not just in England but the whole world.
â€œWould I have liked to play alongside him? Any player would like to play with a player of his calibre. Heâ€™s a formidable player, a match-winner.â€
The 38-year-old Totti, who like Gerrard has spent all his senior career at one club, added: â€œHeâ€™s played so many years with the same jersey for the same club.
â€œThat means he warrants respect for everything that he has done.â€
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