Former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard has announced his retirement from professional football, ending his 19-year playing career.
The 36-year-old, who left LA Galaxy earlier this month, had been linked with the managerial vacancy at MK Dons but said on Wednesday that the opportunity to move into management had come “a bit too soon” for him.
Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, said in October that the club would “always have space” for Gerrard, who spent 17 years at his boyhood club.
“Following recent media speculation surrounding my future I can confirm my retirement from playing professional football,” Gerrard confirmed in a statement on Thursday. “I have had an incredible career and am thankful for each and every moment of my time at Liverpool, England and LA Galaxy.”
Gerrard made 710 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 186 goals and winning eight major trophies, including the Champions League in 2005, before joining MLS side LA Galaxy in 2015. Gerrard, England’s fourth most-capped player, represented his country on 114 occasions and captained England at three major tournaments.
At club level, Gerrard lifted the FA Cup on two occasions as well as starring in Liverpool’s penalty shoot-out Champions League victory against Milan in Istanbul.
“The way you feel on the pitch changes and over the past couple of years I felt myself slowing down a little bit on the pitch,” Gerrard said, speaking to BT Sport. “The body starts talking to you, the pains and the aches get more regular. I can’t deliver what I used to be able to deliver and as time goes on that’s frustrating.
“My last three or four months I was getting too many injuries, the games were becoming more challenging and the travel was starting to affect me. I’ve had a few moments over the past few months where I thought ‘I didn’t play that well today’ or ‘that guy got the better of me today’.
“I’ve listened to people over the years, important people in the game who I trust and have a lot of respect for, and they said to me, ‘always go with a tiny bit lift and never overstay your welcome and play on too long where it becomes embarrassing’. I can feel that’s not too far away so now is the right time [to retire].”
In his statement, published on Thursday, Gerrard added: “As a teenager I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the famous red shirt of Liverpool, and when I made my debut against Blackburn Rovers in November 1998 I could never have imagined what would then follow over the next 18 years. I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career. I am proud to have played over 700 games for Liverpool, many of which as captain, and to have played my part in helping the club to bring major honours back to Anfield, none more so than that famous night in Istanbul.
“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 114 England caps and to have had the honour of captaining my country. I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the England shirt. I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.
“Firstly, I would like to thank everyone at Liverpool Football Club. I am proud to have played for and captained Liverpool for so many years and to have achieved what we achieved during my time at the club. I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some fantastic managers during my time at Anfield and would like to thank each and every one of them, as well as all of the backroom staff at the club throughout my time there for the fantastic support they showed me.
“I would like to say a special thank you to Steve Heighway, Dave Shannon and Hugh McAuley for believing in me when I was making my way at Liverpool and for giving me the platform to go on and fulfil my dreams. Thank you to the amazing fans of Liverpool, England and LA Galaxy for the incredible backing you have given me throughout my career. Your loyalty and support has meant the world.
“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”
Gerrard’s last match before confirming his retirement was LA Galaxy’s 5-1 win over Colorado Rapids in the MLS on 6 November. Before retiring, Gerrard was linked with roles at Celtic and overseas in Serie A. Jamie Carragher, Gerrard’s former Liverpool and England team-mate, said on Tuesday that it is a “matter of time” before Gerrard takes on a management role, and a return to his boyhood club has been widely mooted.
In an interview posted online by BT Sport following his retirement, Gerrard said: “It [Liverpool] means the world to me. I’ve got a lot to thank them for. I think I would like to do a bit of both [coaching and punditry], in the future I definitely have dreams and aspirations of having a go at management, or assisting the manager, and being back involved in the dressing room – but I’ve got many, many years to do that.”
Klopp, the Liverpool manager, said last month that Gerrard “is always so welcome” at the Premier League club. “You cannot imagine how welcome so absolutely no problem, but everything we will talk to each other about will stay in these talks,” the German said. “That is how I know Stevie and that is how I am. Nobody should be worried that we don’t have space for Steven Gerrard. Everything will be fine, 100%.”