Steven Gerrard is gone. Yes, I understand, that is a difficult thing to hear for Liverpool supporters, but it is the truth. And with that fact comes an even harsher truth: Liverpool are without a star.
No, for the past few years, Steven Gerrard has not been the star that he once showed he was in the mid-2000s. But, as time wore on, the likes of Fernando Torres and Luis Suárez were the guys who could shoulder the weight that Stevie G couldn’t carry all the time. Unfortunately, those stars are long gone, and now too is the beloved skipper.
The main knock against Gerrard, as the public address announcer painfully reminded us at Gerrard’s send-off on Saturday, is that he has won almost all there is to win (referring to the Premier League title that has eluded Liverpool since 1990). But, look at the closest finishes to league titles in recent memory: 2008-9 with Torres and 2013-14 with Suárez, 2nd place finishes within four and two points of the top, respectively. Gerrard was an enormous piece of those runs, but now his absence can shine some light on the fact that Liverpool need star power to end the title drought.
A fifth place finish (possibly lower if the final day doesn’t go our way) is an accomplishment for a squad that wasn’t supposed to rebound after Suárez’s departure, but it doesn’t do well for the team’s attractiveness. Big-name players don’t want to leave big-name clubs to not play in the Champions League right away. Links with Gonzalo Higuaín and other stars have potential, but in the end, will likely not go Liverpool’s way. Fenway Sports Group and Brendan Rodgers (if he is still the manager at the end of the year, which is the most likely scenario) only have two choices. They can either trust in the youngsters they have to mature and become a strong team, with perhaps a star being born. Or, they can scan the transfer market, and, although they likely won’t land any current star, they can certainly find a diamond in the rough.
Of the current squad, only Philippe Coutinho stands out as a real star, or at least potentially. Jordan Henderson has the opportunity to be the tireless worker and great leader that Gerrard was, but doesn’t have the skill to be a real star in the Premier League. Daniel Sturridge has shown his brilliance, but is injured too often to prove that he can provide what Torres and Suarez once did. Of course, Raheem Sterling seems to have the price tag of a star, but, considering the fact that he’s likely on his way out coupled with his awful performance against Palace, I wouldn’t put my money on him. The youth squad has some promise, with Jerome Sinclair and Sheyi Ojo being the most popular of the U-21s, but the club can’t bank on them. Divock Origi returns from loan, and Liverpool can hope for goals from him, but again, he’s too young to put all that pressure on him. To put it simply, the star power doesn’t really exist in the current team.
The transfer market has linked Liverpool with plenty of big names, from Higuaín to Karim Benzema, and many in between. The likelihood of those transfers actually happening is quite slim, and the reality that Liverpool supporters must face is that the best striker Liverpool will bring in is probably going to be Danny Ings. Ings did great things for relegated Burnley this season, but is he the star they need? If Liverpool can pull together money for the big guys, or even a proven striker with more potential than Ings, such as Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang of Dortmund, they would be better off. Still, the fifth place finish really hurts them in that department. Brendan Rodgers will have to hope to pull off a miracle signing, or hope that the youngsters he brought in can live up to the money that was spent on them.
There won’t be a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo at Anfield next season. In fact, there likely won’t even be anyone close to that level. In the modern era of European football, star power is essential to success, and Liverpool just plain lack it. Torres couldn’t do it, Suárez couldn’t do it, and, over his many years, even Steven Gerrard couldn’t take Liverpool to the top of English football. Until that star emerges or arrives at Anfield, expect that title to still find its way out of Liverpool’s grasp.