Vladimir Smicer always felt his team stood a much better chance of winning when he saw Steven Gerrard's name on the team-sheet in the changing rooms before a match.

During Smicer's six years at the club, the Reds won the FA Cup, two League Cups and the UEFA Cup before clinching the European Cup on penalties in the summer of 2005.

In what was to be his last game in a red shirt, Smicer was influential, firing in normal time and then in the shoot-out as AC Milan were stunned in Istanbul.

Gerrard, perhaps more than ever, was at his inspirational best as he led a six-minute fight-back at the start of the second half - but for Smicer, the final was merely the pinnacle of so many famous displays.

"He's incredible - he's a good leader," the former Red told Liverpoolfc.com. "When we were playing and he was in the team, I knew that we had a far better chance to win the game than without him.

"Steven understands the game really well. He has changed his position, but his performances have got even better. I think with age you have to sometimes change your game.

"People were questioning whether he could still be at the top, but he's proving himself all the time. I am so glad that he is so close to winning the title and I just hope that they will finish this work and that Liverpool can win the title.

"He has won everything and [the title] is the only thing that he is missing."

A passionate Red, Smicer has been monitoring the current side's progress this season from afar - and like many observers, the former Czech Republic star has been bowled over by the performance levels on display.

"I think this team is very strong up front," said Smicer. "They've scored 96 goals in the Premier League and that shows their quality. That's all I can say about this team.

"But they are not only very good up front, because you need that at the back too. But for me when you know you have the strikers and the players who can score the goals, it's very important for the team."