Brendan Rodgers today fielded a range of questions on Steven Gerrard at his first press conference since the Liverpool captain announced his intention to leave the club at the end of the season.
It was revealed on Friday morning that the curtain will be brought down on the inspirational No.8's incredible, trophy-laden Anfield career when the 2014-15 campaign concludes in May.
Reporters and journalists gathered at Melwood quizzed Rodgers on every element of the skipper's decision - including how it was ultimately reached, his personal reaction to the news, what it means for the club and his appreciation for Gerrard.
Read on for a full transcript of the manager's responses.
When did you know Steven Gerrard's decision to leave and what was your reaction? How do you feel about it now?
I've been in conversations for quite a while with Steven and had an idea of his feelings moving forward. He had always been really respectful in terms of once he made his final decision, he wanted me to know first. In fairness to him, we had a chat a few days before the announcement was made. I've been fully aware all the way along. He is someone who deserves the utmost respect and that's why I said in the last press conference when we were talking that [because of] what the guy has done in the game and how he is as a person, he deserves the time to make his decision. At this time, the decision is purely for him and his family. He has been and is an iconic figure at the club and always will be. Over time, there'll be an opportunity for him to come back here, for sure. At this moment in time in his life, it's a chance to experience something different for him when that time comes at the end of the season. At that time, that will bring an end to his Liverpool career as a player.
How do you respond to those who have raised the question of whether the club could and should have done more to keep him?
If you look at Steven's statement, it makes it clear. He certainly knew my feelings on wanting him to be here. He has been a brilliant captain for me in my time here so, naturally, of course I wanted him to stay and be here. His role is slightly different; he still sees himself wanting to go on and play for a couple more years. Naturally, at this level that was maybe going to be tapered a little bit over the next couple of years. He wasn't ready to move into coaching or anything like that yet. He still sees himself very much as a player, and when that time comes when he finishes and retires as a player then that's maybe something we can look at. He's someone, of course, who would be brilliant to be back here as part of the staff. At this moment in time, his concentration is on his football. And he said it himself: he leaves here on great terms, both with me and the owners. Anything else that's said beyond that would be wide of the mark.
How much of a possibility is it that he could still start here next season, maybe coming back on loan depending on where he goes obviously?
I'm sure you'll run all of the different scenarios between now and the end of the season. The focus is that he is still very much a player in the now. He has been a fantastic player for me in my time here and we've still got the second part of the season to come, with some really exciting games. He wants to be a real part of what we're trying to do here in terms of finishing as high as we possibly can and delivering a trophy. Beyond that, I'm not really thinking about that.
You say you were aware of the way Steven was thinking all along - did you and the team around you think of changing your approach to Steven to try to change his mind to get him to stay here?
Steven is very much a thinker; this is a club that he loves passionately. The one thing about Steven Gerrard is that his thinking is very much about the club. I've got a great relationship with him, our communication is very open. I was aware of what he was thinking and I also knew the turmoil he was in as well, in terms of the decision of when to leave this club. His situation is unique. You see players that are one-club players. But there's not too many who have lived five minutes around the corner that are Liverpool players. You see players who stay at clubs for a long period of time, but they are moving from different parts of the country. But this is a guy who virtually lived five minutes around the corner [from Melwood]. Since he was very young, he's been making that religious journey into here every single day. He's a guy who is a supporter, deep in his heart, of Liverpool. He's made that dream and made that step to go on and represent this fantastic club. So it was important for me to give him my perspective on it. But also, he's 34 years of age. He's a man who I wanted to stay and he knew that. But it was about other things in his life. He's been making this journey into work here for nearly 20 years. I've been a manager and I moved away from home when I was 16 years of age. I've travelled different parts of the country, so I know experiences make you a better person and give you better knowledge. Steven has had that here and he's never had to move away. I wanted to give him the respect in order to give him that clear thinking time. Of course we wanted him to be here, but we respected his decision for the next few years for him and his family.
Do you get the sense that, now he has made his decision, he will be a calmer figure; that it will take a weight off him?
No, I think he's very much the same. Out of respect to the football club, and to me as a manager, he wanted to make the decision, sooner rather than later, so that there wasn't going to be all the speculation. That's the type of man he is. He puts others first. He could very easily have let it run through to the end of the season and not said anything. This is a really special type of character, who wanted the club and the manager and other players to be put before him. If he had his way, there wouldn't be another word spoke on it and everyone would move on. But the type of man that he is and the type of player that he is, of course he's going to be spoken about every day. But it won't change his thinking. His thinking has always been very much the same. His work, his mentality, is to be the best that he can for Liverpool. That won't waver whatsoever now that he has announced [he will leave].
Because of a difficult 2014 for him, with the title disappointment, England's World Cup campaign and the Reds going out of the Champions League, do you think it was an opportunity to do something a bit different?
I think it's worth pointing out that in 2014, we nearly won the league because of Steven Gerrard. Everyone references the slip in the Chelsea game. But we had 38 games to win the league and we just came up short over the course of the 38 games. Steven Gerrard captained this team on an incredible run last year and the reason why we challenged, was a big part because of him. So 2014, in terms of the period which covered the second part of last season, his performances were monumental for us. He gave us key goals, the composure, the calmness, the important penalties that he scored and the important passes. His influence and stature in the team on the field gave us the opportunity to win the league. The World Cup was something that Steven will have experienced many highs and lows in before during his career with England. He's experienced enough to deal with that. This season, in terms of the opening period, it hasn't been as what we would have wanted, but that certainly won't have changed his mind. He's been through a lot in his career, both highs and lows. Because of the type of character he is, he's always dealt with that. Come the end of the season he'll be 35 years of age. He's been given a chance to look at his footballing life and he's just felt that the best decision was to move away from Liverpool. He's always made it clear to me that he never, ever wanted to work against Liverpool. This is his club. He's a fan and a supporter of Liverpool and the move was ultimately going to take him out of this country.
Given that you have recently been careful with how often you play him, particularly at this time of year as well, this [Wimbledon game] on paper would seem like an opportunity to rest him - but given that he's got an end date in sight for his Liverpool career, does he want to play in every game he can now?
It doesn't change for me, really. I'll always pick what I think is the best team for the games. Every football player is the same - they want to play every minute of every game, and Steven is no different. He understands where it's at and the number of games we've been playing, and that there might be times that he has to come out of the team. There is no change to that - I'll remain clear on picking the team based on trying to get the best physicality out of the team.
You lost Jamie Carragher a couple of years ago, now Steven is going to leave. How important is that Scouse heart in the team and how do you replace it?
Certainly from a management perspective, not too many managers get to have to manage that situation. Jamie was an incredible player here for the club and has gone on to have a successful career outside of football now. He was pretty much clear in what he wanted to do. Stevie will move on at the end of the season and for us, it's about finding the next one. It's a difficult ask - you've got one of the leading players in world football over the last 10-15 years, but it happens to all the great players and as a football club you've got to look to find the next ones. There is a lot of great work going on in our Academy with a real focus on the players that are on our own doorstep. Now it is easy to look away from your own doorstep and look abroad, but for us we're trying to find the talents - of which I believe there are many - in and around the Merseyside area and Liverpool. That's the challenge now, looking for the next one. There is only one Steven Gerrard, but we have to look for the next talents to come through.
When you took over, you maybe thought the end of Gerrard's Liverpool career would come on your watch. Was there a long-term plan from the beginning in terms of thinking 'in two years' time we're going to have to replace this guy' and a build towards that?
When I came in, I believed Steven had a lot to offer the team in terms of his performance. Working here, I see his great influence in the changing room with the other players and the great work he does throughout the football club. Of course, you always have in the back of your mind there is going to be a time he will move on and you're looking to bring through the next ones - that's something that has had to be looked at from a football perspective. It's neigh on impossible to find a direct replacement for someone of that stature and quality, but we have to continue with our work and continue to find the top players to come in and perform for the club.
Do you think there is one individual out there who could fill that void, or is it going to be a case of filling it with more than one?
It's not something that I've overly thought. Steven Gerrard is unique in his play and in his behaviour, how he has been as a football player. For me coming into here, finding out what he is like as a human being, he is a really unique character. You can't make the direct replacement. As we've seen over many years in football, there is always the opportunity there for the next one to come in. For us it'll always be about the team, but this is a football club that is renowned for having world-class players. It gives an opportunity for the young players to keep pushing on and there's no greater club in the world to be an icon at. This is an incredible football club and if you can perform consistently at a top level here, there is no greater place to be to be held in that esteem by the Liverpool supporters.