LIVERPOOL captain Steven Gerrard will have to accept he has a reduced role to play at the club if he agrees to extend his stay beyond the end of his current contract.
The midfielder’s existing deal runs out in the summer, by which time he will be 35, and while an offer of new terms on what is believed to be a one-year deal has been made, the player is still mulling over his decision.
Manager Brendan Rodgers said Gerrard has earned the right to take his time over his next move and insists the pair have had honest conversations about what the future holds for him in the team.
The midfielder has featured in every Premier League match this season but Saturday’s victory over Stoke, when he was left on the bench until the final 20 minutes, was the first time he had not played the 90 minutes.
Gerrard was also left on the bench for Liverpool’s visit to Real Madrid in the Bernabeu last month and Rodgers admits that is something he will have to get used to if he is to remain at Anfield beyond this season.
“He’s at the stage of his career where it’s not so much the number of games he plays now, it’s about the level of the game – and that’s something I’ll always work with him and we’ll look at,” said the Reds boss.
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“No matter how good a player has been, once they’re coming towards those final years of their career, then of course, as a manager, you’re having to taper that in where you think you can get the best out of the player.
“He’s still a wonderful player. I’m sitting here talking about a player that has still got world-class talent, but of course, when you get that little bit older and maybe physically it’s not quite the same, you have to manage that.
“It is managing the period of life he is in. That’s just purely the case of where we’re at.
“I see the talent every day and I just need to manage that and put it into the games where I think it can be the most effective.
“He will continue to be a key player for me and I am hoping we can get a contract sorted.
“Between now and the end of the season he deserves that opportunity to have a think of where it is at, but one thing is clear, I love working with Steven Gerrard.
“It is not a problem, it is not an issue. We speak a lot and all I can ever be is as honest as I possibly can and offer him the respect because he deserves that and that is how it will always be.
“It is a big move not just in his life but in terms of committing where his next contract is going to be.
“There are probably many things Steven would have to think about in a decision like this but it certainly won’t be money.”
Gerrard could return to the starting line-up for tonight’s trip to bottom side Leicester as Liverpool look to maintain winning ways and keep back-to-back clean sheets in the league for the first time since March.
The decision Rodgers has is where to play him as Lucas Leiva has done a decent-enough job starting the last two matches against Stoke and Ludogorets, in the Champions League, in the defensive midfield role Gerrard has been occupying for the last 18 months.
Gerrard has operated in an advanced position behind striker Rickie Lambert in his last two appearances and, with the manager trying to ensure greater solidity in his side, that may be an option again.
“Steven was a player who could orchestrate attacks from deep, with the players we had up front, his quality could exploit that,” added Rodgers.
“The dynamic up front has changed so I have to think of a restructure so we look at a different type of midfielder to come in.
“Lucas is aggressive but can also attack. Ludogorets, Stoke – he’s been excellent. It’s been a great credit to him and his professionalism.”
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