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He isn't quite ready to hang up his boots, but with his career winding down Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has had to come to grips with a reality where winning a title before he does retire seems almost impossible.
"It’ll be a miracle if we win the title before I finish," said an honest Steven Gerrard, reflecting on his time at Liverpool in an interview with The Sunday Times. "I say that because of my age and the situation with rivalries. The league has become more difficult to win. There’s not just United and Arsenal now but City, Chelsea and Tottenham. Newcastle are coming as well."
It's certainly a different Premier League landscape than when Gerrard broke through to the Liverpool first team in 1998 under Gerard Houllier. Even compared to the 2008-09 season when the club fell four points short of Manchester United it can feel a completely different world, and since that time fans have had to watch Gerrard's career turn down a rocky, injury-filled path that has paralleled the club's generally fading fortunes.
If that's made for a difficult adjustment for those on the outside looking in, then it's hardly surprising that for Gerrard himself the past few seasons have been a struggle—a struggle to find consistent fitness, a struggle to make an impact on fading legs, and a struggle to figure out where he fits in Liverpool's future all while the club drops down the standings and deals with an unending sting of crises.
"We were eighth last year," he continued. "If this season goes well, we get a bit of luck, improve, we have a 50-50 chance of being in the top four. That’s being realistic—it’s achievable—but even if we do sneak into the top four, I’ll be 33 at the end of the season, so that’s why it’ll be a miracle if we win the title before I finish.
"But I’ll keep fighting. I’ll keep trying and see what happens. With what I've achieved here and my feeling and love for this club it's more important for me, now, to think 'What can I realistically achieve in the next two or three years as a Liverpool player?' rather than thinking, selfishly, 'Maybe I can sneak away and try and win the league with someone else.'"
Still, even with the club's and his recent struggles, Gerrard believes Liverpool are now "on the edge of becoming a really good team" under Brendan Rodgers—that even if he doesn't see a title coming before he hangs up his boots, the next generation of potential stars just now working their way into the first team offer the club reason to hope for the future—adding, "Teams are going to struggle against our style. The kids coming through are very exciting."
And in the end, despite that growing recognition that he's now far closer to the end of his career than its beginning, he's not quite ready to hang up his boots just yet—and of course, every now and then, miracles do happen.
"I think I can still play at this level for quite a while. I've got this season and next on my contract. I'm not looking for a new contract but I'm hoping next year will not be my last. I'll know when I'm ready to go."