LIVERPOOL captain Steven Gerrard admits the club’s return to the Champions League was one of the factors in his decision to retire from international football.
The 34-year-old was used judiciously by Reds manager Brendan Rodgers last season and as a result made 34 Premier League appearances, only one of which was as a substitute.
With the additional demands of Europe’s elite club competition – which Gerrard famously helped Liverpool win in 2005 – for the first time in five years, England’s third-highest appearance maker has decided now is a good time to bow out.
“Obviously I have to look after my body as much as possible to ensure I can give everything when I take to the field,” said the midfielder who, with 114 caps, is only behind goalkeeper Peter Shilton (124) and David Beckham (115).
“To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool Football Club, I believe this is the right decision, and having Champions League football back at Anfield is another big factor in my decision.”
Gerrard will probably be criticised by some for putting club before country but there will be as many, if not more, who will agree now is the time for him to step down from the national side.
A disastrous summer saw England exit the World Cup in Brazil after just two matches and Roy Hodgson had a degree of rebuilding to do anyway but would probably have wanted Gerrard to stay on a while longer to ease the transition.
“While I’m disappointed in the decision, I can entirely understand Steven’s situation and can have no complaints given the incredible service he has given to his country,” Hodgson said.
“I must respect his wishes due to the discussions we have had and the amount of thought and consideration he himself has given it. He is an incredible man and a fantastic footballer who we have all been blessed to see in an England shirt so often.
“It is never by coincidence that people reach such a staggering figure as 114 caps, it is a mark of his wonderful talent allied to a huge drive and determination to live up to the highest standard.
“He is not only a player to bring crowds to their feet with moments of brilliance; he was a tremendous captain and an exceptional role model for everyone who was fortunate to come into contact with him.”
Gerrard put a lot of thought into his decision after a disappointing World Cup and it is not as a result of a knee-jerk reaction.
“This has been a very difficult decision, one of the toughest I’ve had to make in my career,” he said. “I have agonised over this since coming back from Brazil and have spoken to family, friends and people close to me in the game before coming to this point.
“I’d like to firstly thank my family and friends for all their support throughout my England journey. I’d also like to thank everyone who has been part of my international career, from the England managers I’ve played under to the staff at the FA and, of course, all the players I’ve been fortunate to play alongside.
“In particular, the supporters have been amazing, not least in Brazil when they got behind the team despite the disappointing results. I’d especially like to thank Roy for giving me the captaincy permanently when he took the job.”
FIVE OF THE BEST
September 2001 – Germany 1 England 5
Gerrard scored his first goal for his country as England came from a goal down to achieve one of their most memorable triumphs in Munich’s Olympic Stadium and revive their World Cup qualification hopes. Michael Owen scored a hat-trick and there was even a rare goal for Emile Heskey.
June 2006 – England 2 Trinidad and Tobago 0
Gerrard put the agony of missing out on the 2002 finals through injury behind him by netting his first World Cup tournament goal to seal victory after Peter Crouch had netted the opener with only seven minutes remaining.
March 2007 – Andorra 0 England 3
Gerrard dragged England off the floor almost single-handedly with an inspired second 45 minutes in this Euro 2008 qualifier in Barcelona. After a dismal first-half performance in which fans chanted vitriol towards manager Steve McClaren, the midfielder scored twice in the 3-0 win.
September 2009 – England 5 Croatia 1
Revenge was sweet for Gerrard and his team-mates after missing out on the Euro 2008 finals as Croatia were hammered at Wembley to secure a place at the 2010 World Cup. The Liverpool skipper and Frank Lampard shared four goals, with Wayne Rooney also on target.
June 2012 - England 1 France 1
A proud night for Gerrard as he led England as official captain at a major tournament for the first time. He set up the opener for Joleon Lescott with a pinpoint cross only for Samir Nasri to equalise. Gerrard went on to be named in the Euro 2012 team of the tournament.