“I had a chance to move to a Champions League club last year. He’ll get many more chances to move – he should wait for the big ones to come”
Steven Gerrard has urged Liverpool team-mate and friend Luis Suarez to follow his own example – by chasing his Champions League dream wisely.
Ultimate one-club-man – and ultimate professional – Gerrard has revealed some surprise news on the eve of his testimonial: The latest offer to tempt him away from Anfield arrived less than a year ago.
Yet the bid – from a Bayern Munich side that would go on to win the European Cup, with Real Madrid also maintaining a keen interest – was met with the same response the Reds’ skipper offered to the countless other attempts to prise him from his beloved Liverpool home, where he has played his entire, dazzling 15-year career.
And it is this example he has offered as evidence to Arsenal target Suarez, to persuade his team-mate there is simply no need to rush out of Merseyside in a desperate search for instant Champions League gratification.
Gerrard said: “I had a chance to move to a Champions League club last year, but there was no temptation. I have been through that enough before – and that is the message for Luis.
“He will get many more chances to move on, if that’s what he wants to do further down the line. I just think a player of his level and quality should wait for the big ones to come.
“Luis deserves to maybe play in one of the best teams in world football in Barcelona and Madrid and they will come calling for him again.
“So I am hoping, from a biased point of view, that he stays for another year and shows the form he did last year… which could help take Liverpool to that level.
“Then, maybe, it will be time for him to go next year or the year after. But I really don’t think it is the right time for him to go just yet.”
A grinning Gerrard declined to reveal which team made the offer to him last year.
But it was no secret Jose Mourinho was desperate to take him to the Bernabeu, and Bayern tried an official approach of their own.
To have perhaps the two biggest clubs in the world right now show interest in you at the age of 32 shows both the enduring quality of the player, and the power of his message to Suarez.
The South American would love a move to Real, but so far only Arsenal have made an offer, with the second of two bids passing the £40m mark by one pound.
There are strong indications the Gunners will return next week with an offer significantly closer to Liverpool’s £55m valuation, but Gerrard remains adamant that unless one of the top clubs in the world come knocking, Liverpool have to stick to their guns as proof they retain their own Champions League ambitions.
The fear at Anfield in recent years is that the Reds are facing an ever harder task to bridge the gap to the very top clubs – a challenge that could one day become impossible.
Gerrard said: “That is my main worry, yes, and I think the main worry of every fan.
“It is no different for me being a player. The only thing that may be different is I can do something about it on the pitch.
“That’s why Liverpool have to do everything they can to keep their best players. Can you imagine the reaction if the club just said to Luis, ‘Okay. Go to whoever you want. Go to one of our rivals’ and we give in easy?
“I think the club are doing the right thing by wanting to keep their best players. I am sure all genuine Liverpool fans have the same worries and concerns that it becomes permanent and we can’t bridge that gap.
“But we have to keep fighting and believe, and I have confidence from the last six months of last season that we can prove people wrong and break into it.
“I think certain things have to happen to help us do that and one of those is the main subject on everyone’s lips – Luis Suarez.
“You lose him you take steps backwards to try to achieve top four. If you keep him and add to him it gives you an awful lot better chance.”
Gerrard of course, has resisted the urge to seek more instant gratification elsewhere.
His testimonial game against Olympiacos – the side he scored THAT Champions League against in 2004 – on Saturday proves his loyalty after 15 years of service and his support for the local community, given that proceeds of around £1m will go to children in the area via his charitable foundation.
And he still believes Suarez would do well to invest in a club with so much passionate history.
“Clubs are spending a lot of money and have a lot more than us but I think a traditional club like Liverpool still has a value.
“It certainly does for me and is the reason why I have stuck around for so long. For me it is more important to win a couple of trophies and achieve something that is a lot more difficult than going down the easy road and moving to a club where it becomes easier.
“That would send out the right message to supporters. We need to show them we mean business and can challenge, and the only way we can do that is by keeping top players.”