Rafael Benitez today paid tribute to 'complete midfielder' Steven Gerrard as the Liverpool captain prepares to make his 500th appearance for the Reds against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
Just over 11 years after breaking into the first-team at Anfield, the 29-year-old is on the verge of joining an elite band of players who have represented the club 500 times or more.
"To play 500 games is a massive achievement for any player, especially at the same club," enthused Benitez.
"He has reached this stage by showing the same passion and commitment for many years.
"Hopefully he can still play a lot more games for Liverpool. He is at a good age and is very professional. He will reach 500 games this weekend but can still play another 200 or more games for this club.
"Steven is a key player for us, the kind of player that can make a difference in a game.
"We have some important players but Stevie is one of those that, when he is playing well, the team can win any game. It doesn't matter if the other players aren't playing well, he can win a game for you with one special moment."
Gerrard has established himself as one of the greats of the game over the course of his career so far.
Superhuman performances and superlative goals go hand-in-hand with the Huyton-born star - though there's one night in particular that, for the time being at least, stands above the many others.
That came on May 25, 2005 when Gerrard helped inspire Liverpool to a dramatic fight back at the Ataturk Stadium as the Reds came from three goals down at half-time to secure an historic Champions League final victory over AC Milan on penalties.
"I have seen the final once or twice since," grinned Benitez.
"It was amazing. Gerrard's role within the way that we won was crucial. He scored a fantastic goal but also his workrate and the quality he showed was incredible.
"That's what you get from him."
A year later and Gerrard was at it again, helping Liverpool seal an FA Cup final triumph at the expense of West Ham in Cardiff.
The No.8 scored twice on that warm afternoon in the Welsh capital, including a Roy of the Rovers style volley from fully 35 yards in injury-time to take the game to extra-time, before the Reds went on to clinch the trophy on penalties.
"One hundred per cent, Steven is capable of doing this for you," said the boss.
"But you cannot win trophies with just one player. You need a team behind that player. But if you have a good team, players like Gerrard can make the difference.
"He's set very high standards but, of course, cannot play at the same level all the time. That is why he needs the team to be playing well with him.
"But by putting other good players around him he can be the best and you can be sure of winning more games."
Benitez arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2004, eagerly relishing the prospect of working alongside a player he admits he was more than aware of.
The manager immediately took an active interest in Gerrard's development and has since benefitted from his skipper's mercurial talents and never-say-die attitude.
"I knew all about him before I came here because Valencia had faced Liverpool in the Champions League and then again in a pre-season friendly at Anfield," he continued.
"I had some reports and heard he was a very good player.
"When I eventually came to Liverpool he was one of the players I knew could help us.
"If you have quality in your players you know as a manager that you can do more with them. You can always improve players but it's not always easy when they are already at a very good level.
"Stevie was one of those players but I think he is better now because he has been learning for years. He has learned under different managers but for the past five years we have been talking a lot about different parts of his game and how he could improve. He has always been willing to learn.
"He is always learning and knows the game much better now than when I first came to the club.
"Also, he is more mature now and can play in many positions because he is intelligent.
"If he plays as a midfielder he always has an influence on a game. If he plays as a second striker he will have the same influence, only in the other box.
"He is very difficult to play against. Stevie can also play on the left or the right as he has for England.
"We even saw him at right-back in Istanbul when we needed to stop Serginho. Again, he played well and we could still see him going forward trying to win the game."
Although primarily a central midfielder when Benitez arrived at the club, the Spaniard was quick to sense Gerrard's presence further up the field could be profitable to his plans.
The England international has been moulded into a prolific second striker over the past five years, and Benitez insists his versatility is one of many attributes that sets him apart.
He added: "When everyone was saying he should be in central midfield, Stevie scored 20-plus goals as a right-midfielder. He has then gone on to score 21 and 24 goals in consecutive seasons as a second striker, whereas his best total from central midfield was around 13.
"He has learned that he can now be very dangerous playing a little further up the pitch. When he gets forward into the box he is almost unstoppable.
"This is just one of his strengths. He can also score goals from outside the box and is dangerous at set-pieces with a good delivery, plus he is a good tackler. In that sense, he is the complete midfielder."