Brendan Rodgers' clever decision to drop Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard into a deeper position in January – and the No.8's ease in adapting to the responsibility – came as no surprise whatsoever to John Barnes.

The skipper was first deployed at the base of the Reds' midfield, in what the manager described as 'the controlling role', for the journey to the usually tricky Stoke City, where a 5-3 victory was achieved.

From there, the demands and challenges of the task became second nature; Gerrard successfully swept in front of the defence and launched attacks as Rodgers' charges won 11 straight matches and battled for the Barclays Premier League title.

All the while, Barnes, who himself experienced a similar transition during the latter stages of his time at Anfield, watched on with keen interest, taking note of the Englishman's formidable contribution to the cause he has defended for 15 years.

What was unfolding was not unexpected to the 50-year-old, though; in fact, he believes that if history had travelled a different course, then Gerrard might have made a career out of the holding position in the Liverpool team.

"I have said this all along to people," Barnes told "I remember speaking to Didi Hamann about it, because Didi didn't know Steven Gerrard as a young kid who was able to do that.

"When he came, Steven was an all-attacking midfield player, and Didi is surprised that Steven can do this. I'm not surprised at all. I knew Steven when he was a young boy, in my last year at Liverpool.

"If it had been decided, he decided or it was decided for Steven as a 16-year-old, to be a holding midfield player, he would have been the best holding midfield player in the country, the best defensive midfield player in the country.

"What was decided, either by him or the club, was that he would be an attacking midfield player, so he became the best attacking midfield player in the country.

"So this is not a role that is alien to Steven, this is not a role that Steven can't do to a world-class proportion. So it doesn't surprise me at all that he has done it, because it's very natural for him to do it as he gets older.

"He has been the best defensive midfield player in the country. People may have been shocked by that, but I'm not."

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