Steven Gerrard has added spice to the showdown between Liverpool and AC Milan in this years Champions League Final with his comments about Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. After his teams sublime performance in knocking Manchester United out in the Semi Final on Wednesday night, Gattuso received collective praise from the world over for his role in the victory. He was applauded as much for his spirit and presence, for his drive and passion, as he was for his actual role in the win, and the others in this years campaign. Steven Gerrard is one of the few who don’t share the view that Gattuso is one of the most influential, and important players in this years show piece cup final.
Whether fuelled by actual belief, by events that unfolded in that remarkable Final of two years ago, when Gerrard inspired Liverpool to come back from a 3-0 half time deficit, to win on penalties, or just by a personal loathing of Gattuso, Gerrards comments, taken from his autobiography, seem a little fool hardy. Anyone who witnessed any of his string of fine performances over the last few years would agree that Gattuso is the heart a soul of this fine Milan team, as well as the national Italian team. While Kaka has been drawing all the plaudits for his role in the victory over United, and his general form this season, it is Gattuso who is Milan’s most important and effective player. He allows Kaka to play with the space and freedom that a player of his quality and ability needs to be fully effective on the outcome of a match. By doing the dirty work, the unglamourous grunt work, shielding the defence, breaking up attacks, stopping play, being a nuisance, and starting attacks, Gattuso is able to allow Milan to exploit the talents of their flair players. Gerrard point to the theory that Gattuso doesn’t play a killer pass that unlocks defenses, and so can’t hurt the opposition. Neither did Roy Keane, and it’s generally excepted that Keane was the best central midfielder in the Premierships history. Ask Patrick Vieira whether or not Keane was able to hurt any of his teams and I think you’ll find he was. Ask any of Keane’s old team mates at Old Trafford whether or not Gattuso is able to inflict any damage on teams, and you’ll find everyone of them agreeing that he does. It’s no coincidence that the only period of dominance United had in the semi final tie, when they came back from 2-1 down to win 3-2 in the 2nd half of the first leg, was when Gattuso left the field injured. Had he not made it to the 2nd leg the outcome could have been very different.
Steven Gerrard is practically a one man show for Liverpool. He is Liverpool. If he has a bad game, then so to do Liverpool. It was he who changed that game in Istanbul, he who drove Liverpool back into the FA Cup final last year against West Ham, just as he has done many times before. Incidentally both those games ended in draws, with Liverpool winning on penalties. Liverpool rely on him for inspiration and success. He’s been able to deliver, but can only do so much. Which is why Liverpool are a far better cup side then they are a League side. They have never been a threat to United, Arsenal, or Chelsea in the Premiership, but when the occasion takes them, they have done it in cup football. Yet Gerrard has been unable to do what he does for Liverpool in an England shirt. For all the moaning about Gerrard not being able to play with Frank Lampard, the truth is that a player who is able to lead a Liverpool side, lacking in quality and skill compared with the big teams in England and Europe, to such levels that they are now in their second European final in three years, is unable to transfer those performances in an England shirt. There have been occasions where he has done it, yet these have never been when needed most, in the big game, the World Cup, the European Championships, have not seen the Steven Gerrard that Liverpool fans enjoy. By contrast Gattuso is able to take his club form onto the international stage, as was seen with his performances during the World Cup. Like at Milan, where he allows the flair player to play, his role for Italy is fairly similar. For both teams he is partnered by Andrea Pirlo, and in both teams Pirlo’s sublime passing skills are best utilised by possession of the ball, that possession is assured by Gattuso. A World Cup winners medal speaks for itself. The best players in the World are able to perform on any stage, that is where Christiano Ronaldo, who’s international record is remarkable, Kaka, and Gattuso are far ahead of Steven Gerrard.
The comments made by Gerrard about Gattuso in his book show that he does not possess an understanding or appreciation for all faculties of the game. Players like Gattuso are able to take make good teams into great teams, and make the good players around them look like great players. Sir Alex Furgeson has always seen the importance of such a player and has made no secret of his desire to see Gattuso in a United shirt. The role that Roy Keane vacated has yet to be filled, and may e the reason why United have fallen just short in Europe this year. “I wasn’t worried about Gattuso before the game, during the game, or after” Gerrard wrote.”People rate the Italian for some reason. For me, he’s all mouth. I swear I woudn’t mind playing against Gattuso every week.” After this years final Gerrard may want to edit his comments. Gattuso, usually a fiery character, will have extra motivation to show all in Liverpool just what he can do.Gerrard may be more careful about what he says about other players in the future.