BOSTON — Steven Gerrard is one of the best English players of this generation, but his retirement from international competition should aid Liverpool in its quest for a 19th league title and sixth European crown next season.
The Reds captain announced earlier this week that his England career is over. He most recently captained England at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Taking international duty out of his schedule should help Gerrard maintain strong fitness levels throughout the 2014-15 season, as Liverpool takes aim at winning several competitions, including the Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
“I’d spent a lot of time talking to Steven on it, because I know how much it means to him to captain his country,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said Tuesday during a news conference at Fenway Park.
Gerrard made 114 appearances over a 14-year span for England during international play. He competed at three World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014) and three European championships (2004, 2008, 2012). In fact, only Peter Shilton (125) and David Beckham (115) have appeared in more games for England.
Gerrard enjoyed a fantastic 2013-14 season for Liverpool, scoring 13 goals in 34 Premier League games. That goal scoring and his leadership guided Liverpool to a second-place league finish, its highest since 2008-09.
While winning the league remains among the highest priorities, the addition of Champions League fixtures at Anfield for the first time since 2009-10 means Liverpool will need Gerrard to be fit consistently and help the squad’s inexperienced players handle the pressures of playing in club soccer’s most prestigious tournament.
As a former European champion — Gerrard captained Liverpool to victory against AC Milan in the memorable 2005 final in Istanbul — the 34-year-old will play a key factor in the Reds’ success in Europe as a midfielder who excels in each third of the field. Not only is Gerrard capable of scoring goals, he helps ignite the attack with pinpoint passes and maintains the team’s midfield structure with solid positional defense.
“He has been a wonderful captain,” Rodgers said. “But Liverpool is everything to him, and there’s certainly no doubt that by missing out on international football, it will make him fresher.
“He’ll be ready to be at his optimum level as often as he possibly can. For us at Liverpool, it’s great. It brings an end to what has been a great career for England.”
Liverpool’s U.S. tour continues Wednesday night at Fenway Park in a friendly against Serie A (Italy first division) team AS Roma.