A day on from announcing he will leave Liverpool Football Club at the end of the 2014-15 season, Steven Gerrard has explained fully the reasons behind his decision in an emotional interview.
Speaking at Melwood on Saturday morning, 24 hours on from the news being confirmed on this website, the captain outlined his thinking in deciding to leave the Reds after 17 years.
Gerrard describes the feelings he experienced when reaching the decision and how it has impacted him on an emotive level.
The 34-year-old also confirms his next destination will be to Major League Soccer in the United States this summer, although a deal with a club in America has yet to be finalised.
The interview was broadcast for the first time on Saturday evening on LFCTV and LFCTV GO - and we've produced a transcript of it in its entirety for you to read below...
Watch the video here »
A day on from the announcement confirming that you will leave Liverpool Football Club in the summer, how do you feel?
A bit strange. I'm not going to lie, it's been an emotional 24 hours for myself and my family, but there are still six months to go and I've still got plenty to try to achieve, so I am trying to keep my focus on that. There'll be plenty of time for tears and sentiment come the end of the season. It's been a tough 24 hours and I've had to do some tough things that I'd never really thought of doing for a long, long time. Now that it's real, it's a bit of a strange feeling.
What goes through your mind when making a huge decision like that?
I think first and foremost, I always have to put my family first - and then I also think about myself and the club as one, really. I had to make a tough decision about what's best for all concerned. The reality is I am going to be 35 in the summer. I've been here for a long time, I've been coming to this training ground since I was eight years of age. I always knew it was going to end one day and that it was going to be an emotional decision. That decision is here. People will have their own opinions on it, but for me I think come the summer it will be the right time to move on and try something different - come out of the club and the city and have a look in for a short while, and hopefully have the opportunity to return.
Was there a particular moment that made your mind up, that you thought 'this is what I am going to do'?
Yes. There was more than one moment that has made me come to this decision, but I think the key conversation or moment was with the manager when he sat me down not so long ago and said it was time to manage my games for me and for the team. I'm bright enough to realise it is the right thing for everyone, but when you've been a starter and a mainstay in the team for such a long time, it was a very difficult conversation to have with the manager. I accept it and I'll continue to give everything I've got, whether I'm starting, coming off the bench or whatever, but that was the key conversation that swung me to deciding to come away for a short while.
Was it a harsh realisation, or did you know that was coming?
I had an idea it was going to come at some time - I'm a human, not a robot. I'm not 24. I wish I was 24, I wish I'd met Brendan when I was 24 because I think I'd be sitting here talking about a lot of titles that we'd won together. The reality is, Brendan came into this club when I was 32 years of age and it's a shame that relationship didn't start 10 years ago. I had an idea the conversation was going to come at some time, but it was a painful conversation to have and that was the key moment - along with other things over the last six to 12 months, but that was the conversation. That was the key one.
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As you said, you've got to consider your family as the No.1 priority, so what was that conversation like with your wife and your young family?
It was tough to tell the girls, even though they're not big football fans. They're more into the girly things in life, but to tell them their dad wasn't going to play for Liverpool anymore still hit them pretty hard. That's when the emotion started in the house, that's when it became tough. At the same time, it's exciting - it's a great opportunity for my family and myself. But yes, it's tough.
But what an incredible adventure you can take your family on...
Yes, of course. The key for me now is to finish the season strongly from a personal point of view and try to achieve something for the team. And try to cheer the fans up - they have had a difficult six months, like the rest of us. I'm focused now and I told the manager a couple of days ago when we had a chat that he's got no worries about me downing tools. I'll be here until the end and keep fighting until the final ball I kick. I'd love nothing better than to try to win a trophy and leave the team in the top four. Looking beyond six months, of course it's going to be an incredible opportunity for me to try something different, because I've lived in Liverpool all of my life and I've never been out. It will be a change but certainly one I'm looking forward to.
You had to tell your teammates as well, a group of men who look up to you so much. What was their reaction?
I think they were a bit shocked yesterday. It was as if the whole club had had some bad news. But I don't want it to be like that. I wanted to do the announcement after the Leicester game because I didn't want it to affect that game. But life goes on, it's normal and we carry on working hard for each other. They know what I think of them but it was also nice for me to see what they think of me as well. That was touching. But we're all men and we've got work to do. The challenge for us now is to keep trying to move forward and I'm sure we will.
I assumed that you'd be quite closed off from the emotion of it, because you've accepted the decision however long ago. But it seems quite raw for you still...
It's raw and it will be from now until the end of the season. The messages of support I've had from the fans, players, staff, media and people who I've worked with for a long time has blown me away. That's when I've started getting emotional. But I need to be strong and hold them back because I'm not going yet and I still see this six months as a very important period for myself and the team. So I need to be strong, keep playing and after the next couple of days I need to just focus on performances.
Have you read much of the reaction?
I can't at the moment. I keep switching the TV over. I'm replying to messages and stuff, but it's tough. I didn't realise it would be as big as this. But I've got to move on. The important people here are the supporters, they are the key to any football club. I'm lucky enough to play in front of the best ones in the world. Some of the things that I've seen already and will probably see in the future, it's tough to move on.
When you are talked about as a Liverpool legend - something you've been described as for a long time - how does that sit with you?
It's very flattering and I'm very humbled by it. To be named in some of the company that I do get named in is brilliant for me and my family because we're all big Reds, we have supported the club for a long time and will continue to do so forever. To be named in the same company as some of the legends and people I look up to is brilliant, especially for my dad and brother.
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You're allowed to be emotional about it. This club has been such a massive part of your life, but you've been such a massive part of all of our lives and all the supporters' lives...
It's been a fantastic relationship - so strong. I'm one of the luckiest people in the world to have that.
Steven Gerrard and Liverpool go hand-in-hand. You've said before that you want to come back and serve this football club one day. Was that always your long-term plan regardless of this next move?
I think that's more in hope. I'll only come back and serve the club if I feel as if I can help. I'll always be a fan, of course, no matter what happens in the future. But I think that's something I'll have to consider. I think when you've been part of a club like this for so long and you've contributed in the way I've tried to, I'd always want that to stay the same in the future. I wouldn't like to come back just to be Steven Gerrard the player and just be around. I'd like to help in whatever capacity that may be. If I sit down with the people who are running the club at that time and they see a role for me where I can help the team or help young kids to become players, of course I will consider it because, as you say, it's been such a big part of my life.
I know you've said you don't want to speak too much about where you are going to go. But fans will want to know and everyone will want to know. Have you made your decision?
I appreciate that and that's why I made the announcement now. I didn't want it to drag through January and there to be stories in the papers about 'is he staying, is he coming, is he going there', Brendan facing questions from the media and the players [facing questions]. I don't think that's fair and I've always tried to be respectful to other people. I told the manager as early as I could that it was time to move on. I wanted the announcement out there after the Leicester game because we had a bigger space between Leicester and the Wimbledon game to try to get it out of the way, put it to bed and focus on the other games. I can tell the supporters at the moment that it will be America. I'll be going to play in America. But I'm not over the line with any team just yet. I'm close and as soon as I know, I'll make the announcement, I'll do the bits and bobs that I need to do. Then we try to go and win a trophy and forget about Steven Gerrard for a bit.
I don't think people will be forgetting about you any time soon, Steven. There's an important few months left - plenty to play for. What is the dream scenario?
I think, where I'm sitting at the moment, realistically, we've still got a chance of finishing in the top four and that's the most important thing for the club, for obvious reasons. That would be a great achievement after the start we've made in the league. But from a selfish point of view, it's always a trophy and it's always medals, for me. That's what people remember and that's what the club is all about. It's about success and history. The day you make your debut for this club, the pressure and the responsibility is on your shoulders to keep delivering trophies to add to that wonderful history. I've lived with that for so long and I'll live with it for another six months and try my best to add one or two more.
When you finally pack up your locker here at Melwood and you drive out of those gates for the last time, how do you think you'll feel? Is it possible to anticipate that?
Not at the moment. But I'm sure it will be tough. The last couple of weeks will be probably how the last 24 hours have been - very tough. But I'm really proud of what I've done and hopefully I can write a few more chapters with the team from now to the end. But the last game and the last couple of training sessions are going to be torture, because it's so tough to say 'goodbye'. But hopefully it's more of a 'see you soon' rather than a 'goodbye'.
There is a feeling of tremendous sadness among the supporters. What's your message to them?
It's difficult to give a message - but, I'm feeling the same. There's still a bit to go and I'd love nothing better than to walk around Wembley or a big stadium at the end of the season with a trophy for them.
Jürgen Klopp's exclusive first interview is now available to watch on demand via LFCTV GO and to read in full, with the new Liverpool FC manager mapping out his vision for the future of the Reds.
The German completed the formalities of a move to become the 20th boss in the club’s illustrious history on Thursday, arriving with a formidable pedigree and a track record of success.
Among his first tasks as manager was to sit down with club media for a 25-minute chat on his decision to take the helm at Anfield and the philosophy that will come with the charismatic leader.
LFCTV GO subscribers can watch the interview in full by clicking play above, or tune in to LFCTV throughout the day. Click here for details on signing up for either service.
Alternatively, read on for a full transcript…
Jürgen, welcome to Liverpool Football Club…
Thank you so much.
How do you feel?
Great! I have no other words for this. It was a crazy day with everything that happened in Germany and all that happened here when we landed. It’s an absolutely great feeling for me and a big honour to be here. It’s one of the best moments in my life, I have to say. I’m here together with my family – not the whole family, one son is still at home – but we are here together and it feels like a dream.
What attracted you to Liverpool Football Club?
Everything. All I heard about, all I read about, all I felt when I saw, not too many matches in my life, but some very important games. I love football and the intensity of football in Liverpool is very good for me. I always thought about working in England because of the kind of football and the intensity of the football, and Liverpool was first choice. Now I have got the opportunity to work here, it’s the best thing I can imagine.
What did you need to consider, or would you say it was an easy decision?
It was not the most difficult decision. I ended my contract with Dortmund four months ago and I thought about what I would do in the future – I had to develop myself, think about all the things that had happened in the last 15 years but then I had a holiday for four months and it was enough. It was great, but it was enough. The owners have a dream and I have a dream, and so there was not too much they had to say so I could be here.
We know you decided to take that break from football, so what did you learn in that period of time?
A lot of things. After four weeks, the holiday started. In the first four weeks, it was like always – I was tired because I’d worked 15 years in a row as a manager. Always until the last day in the season, I had to work because if you look at my little history in football, it was always until the end – I’m seen to be a guy for 34 or 38 matchdays. That was really hard, of course, but then I tried to relax and I felt as though I was not just a football-only guy. I could get interested in many different things and had a few perfect meetings with some very clever and smart people to talk about football, to talk about nutrition and to talk about so many things. Then I felt that if someone interesting called me, I was prepared. Now I am really relaxed. After 15 years, it was an important decision. I had six very, very cool years at Dortmund and one hard year in the last one, but as a package it was perfect. But I wanted to do something new – and now I am here.
Let’s talk about Anfield – how much are you looking forward to that becoming your home and being the manager for those fans?
My English is not good enough to express this! Not at the moment [anyway], you’ll have to ask me this in a few months again – but of course, I am pretty excited. I want to see it, I want to feel it, I want to smell it – I want to do everything. When I came here with Dortmund a year ago, I was really excited. I came in and saw the dressing room for the away team and asked myself if I needed some colour to paint or something like this! ‘The derby starts at this moment!’ – you go into that dressing room and you think, ‘OK, they want to kick us!’ For me, it was historical. It’s a great place – I’ve been to some places in the world with football, but this was the most special place I’d been. Borussia Dortmund’s stadium – Signal Iduna Park – is a great stadium and I had another perfect little, little stadium with Mainz 05, but this [Anfield] is the most historic place. I am looking forward to it and at this moment I don’t know what I will feel, but it will be good.
It’ll be pretty special to go into that home team dressing room…
Yes, of course. I hope… I’m sure!
How important is it to you to have – or create – that special connection with the supporters?
I understand football. If the people are not interested in football, we can put some sticks in the park and play football. It’s still the perfect game, it’s still the same game, but it’s only this game [professional] because of the fans. That’s what I know, what I think, what I feel. We have to entertain them – we have to make their lives better. That’s what we have to do because football is not so important – we don’t save lives or things like that, we are not doctors. It’s our job to let them forget their problems for 90 minutes and then they can talk for three days about the last game and talk for two days about the next game. That’s how I want to live – if I am not a manager, that’s the way I would live because I love this game so much. That’s why I try to be as close as possible to the fans, but it’s not always so possible to be close to the fans because of the job. I have to work and I need time to work, so it’s not always as the fans want but it’s as often as possible.
But you feel you understand what it is to be a fan?
I always understand. Maybe on Friday I can go to all the places in the stadium and someone will tell me, ‘That happened here and that happened there… Stevie G shot from here, Robbie Fowler or whoever’. That’s pretty cool.
You can go wherever you want now – you’re the manager of Liverpool Football Club!
Yeah, that’s the best thing! But not during the 90 minutes – that will be the most difficult thing for me, the two benches being so close. It’s so different to Germany – you could accidently hit the other coach or manager. I get a little bit emotional during a game!
Do you think you'll need to adapt to English football? How do you think you will adapt?
Of course I will adapt, maybe I have to, I don't know! But in this moment I don't think about this because it's football and I know English football, I watched so many games and we played against English teams. Some things are different but that's not too important in this moment because it's only football. Don't forget, it's a game and we all have the same rules, the pitches are similar in size, so it's not so difficult. My experience is: listen, see, feel - and then think about what you change. Now I have to do these three things and then think about what I have to change or I have to adapt or whatever. I've [been in] football for a long time, I was a player, now I'm a manager, I don't want to make it too complicated. It's very important that the player can understand easily what you want because it's a game and you have to play from here [points at heart], not play from here [points at head]. That's the cool thing, that's the reason why I could play too!
What similar challenges do you think you'll face here at Liverpool that you faced at Dortmund?
Maybe this is the biggest challenge in this moment in world football [laughs], but I was never a guy for the easy way. I'm not interested in this. This is the most interesting job in world football because it's not so bad! I'm completely different because I come from Germany so everything is new now and everything is 'we have to be concentrated' because 'what does this German guy want?' and 'I have to listen'. So that was a good move and in the end we have to start to work and we will see. I know what I want, but I don't want to tell it to you. First, I have to talk to the players, of course, we have to find a common way. We will find a common way and who wants to do what I sometimes propose! [They] can be a good friend of mine [laughs] and it's not such a bad thing to be a good friend of mine because I am really loyal.
How do you assess the squad that you're inheriting here at Liverpool?
It's good, it's good. I'm here because I believe in the potential of the team. If Liverpool ask me and I see the team and think 'oh my God'... no, no, no. In this moment, we are not the best team in the world - who cares? Who wants to be the best team in the world today? We want to be the best team tomorrow or another day. That's all. What I saw from outside is absolutely OK. I saw some good matches and some not so good but it's normal in football you have some problems, you have to solve them. The important thing is we have speed, we have technical skills, we have tactical skills, we have good defenders, good midfielders, good strikers, wingers. Now we have to see who is fit for the first game against Tottenham and then we have to make a team for this game, then we can start. I'm not a dream man, I don't want to have Cristiano [Ronaldo] or Lionel [Messi] and all these players in one team. I want these guys [the current squad], it was a decision for these guys. Now we start working.
Can you tell us what style of play we can expect?
A wild one [laughs]. In football, all the world-class teams play possession football, that's cool. I like to watch this; Bayern Munich, great team, great club; Barcelona, yes; Real Madrid; maybe on some days, Manchester City. But nobody starts as a ball possession team. You cannot start and say 'OK, we have the ball and the other players have to wait’. The first thing, always, maybe in life, you need to have a stable defence. That's the first thing, always. Because you can only stay confident in a game when you know not each offensive move of the other team is a goal. That's the first thing and when you start a development nobody starts a development from the top of the table, only a few teams. You always have a little bit lower position and our position is absolutely OK, so we can start our development today, tomorrow, when the players are back. It's good for me to come here and have a little bit of time to come into the club but also not so good that we cannot start with training immediately. I think we can start together maybe Wednesday next week when they are all back and we can see what we have to do. The kind of football [I coach] is emotional, I like this, I like the emotion in the game. I like the speed in the game, you have to be a real man or woman in the game - it's hard, all things are like this. If I talk about aggressiveness, I only talk about aggressiveness against myself. I have to be harder, feel no pain or something like this, and not aggressive against the opponent because I'm not interested in fouls or things like this. I will see what is possible with this team and then we will decide how we start and when we start we'll know more. We'll see what we do in the next game against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, then it's Southampton. We have many games, maybe we can change something, maybe we have to go one way. If it's possible, can we be the hardest team to beat in the world? Let's try to be this. If you are this, it's not that far away to be a team who can win games. First of all we have to talk with all LFC fans, talk about what are expectations. Because expectations can be a real big problem, it's like a backpack of 20 kilos, it's not so cool to run with this! We have to talk about this, we have to think about this, and then we can start.
Do you think you need a lot of time to implement your style and philosophy?
Of course it needs a lot of time for the end, but not to start. I’m not here to promise you will see against Tottenham the absolute new LFC – but some of the new LFC would be cool. That’s what we’ll try to do. Everything in life takes time. To be an adult takes time; to become a football player takes time; everything takes time. The only thing nobody gives time is development. If somebody feels they have waited enough for success – restart and then everything can happen.
There has been a lot of media talk about the transfer structure within this football club. What is your take on it and what conversations, if any, have you had with the owners about that?
It’s a really funny thing. It was absolutely no problem between FSG and myself, we talked about this. It’s nothing. If two smart, intelligent, clever guys sit together on a table and you both want the same, where can be the problem? We all want to be successful. The only thing for me is to have the first and last word. I don’t want to spend money the club doesn’t have, I don’t want to hold a player that doesn’t want to stay. I have to work all day with these guys. Nobody will sell a player I want to work with, even if it’s a good deal. Nobody wants to transfer a player without my ‘yes’. So everything is OK, I don’t need more.
Will you be bringing any of your backroom staff?
Of course. My two ‘brothers-in-mind’ – Zeljko and Peter, great guys. You will feel it when you see them – they are cool, they are football maniacs. They work pretty hard and they are my perfect partners in this job, because as a manager you always have to make decisions and always have to think about so many different things. In my opinion, it’s very important that you have somebody you can talk to. We can talk about everything. I make the decisions, of course, but I need very good people around me. Not only these two guys – I’m really looking forward to meeting the rest of the LFC staff, I want to learn from them and use their power. Of course, that will take time, when I know what they are all able to do. At the moment, we start with these three guys; we have Pep and John in our training team, two Dutch guys. It’s the first time I’ve worked together with Dutch guys – it’s not so far away from Germany so we will see, maybe we can talk in German! I’m looking forward to it.
What are you hoping to achieve here at Liverpool, short-term and long-term?
Success. When you work in Germany, of course, I was watching British football but I’m not so inside that I know what you have to reach. There’s Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham – they want to be successful in the table. Why should they reach what we don’t? It’s important what we can do together to change our situation. At the moment, all of the LFC family is a little bit too nervous, a little bit too pessimistic, too often in doubt. They all celebrate the game, it’s a great atmosphere in the stadium, but they don’t believe at the moment. They only want to see five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. History is great but it’s only to remember. No, we have the possibility to write a new story if we want. For that, we have to clear a few things. Maybe we can do that in the next few weeks. [We want to be] as successful as we can be. I’m not the guy to say ‘this year will be the best year in the history of LFC’. If it happens, we can celebrate. If not, we have to work further.
Finally, what is your message to the Liverpool supporters?
We have to change from doubter to believer. Now.