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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Football

Liverpool must return to Champions League, says Gerrard
AFP
London, August 02, 2013
First Published: 21:56 IST(2/8/2013)
Last Updated: 21:58 IST(2/8/2013)

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits his club desperately need to regain their Champions League status to avoid missing out on the world's top stars.

Gerrard knows Liverpool's four-year absence from Europe's elite club competition has been a major blow to their status.

Reds striker Luis Suarez is keen to leave Anfield for a club competing regularly in the Champions League, while Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was unable to sign top transfer target Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Shakhtar Donetsk last month when the Armenian opted to join Borussia Dortmund instead.

Gerrard goes into his testimonial against Olympiakos on Saturday with Suarez's desire to quit overshadowing his big occasion.

The England midfielder has told Suarez he wants him to stay despite two bids from Arsenal, but admits until Liverpool regain their top-four place they will struggle to convinced the world's best to come to Merseyside.

"I think the only person who knows what's happening is Luis himself," Gerrard said on Friday.

"He has a huge decision to make and, as his team-mate, I have to show him respect and give him space to make whatever decision he wants to make.

"But I think everyone knows how highly I rate him and how much I want him to stay, and what we can achieve this season basically depends on whether he stays or goes, I believe.

"While I've still got a couple of years left -- and maybe a few more who knows -- I have to make the most of it. And that is about adding more medals to what I already have and to leave this club in the Champions League. That is the challenge for me personally.

"It is not the same club (I joined) because we are not in the Champions League, so it becomes an awful lot more difficult to attract the top players.

"We need to break back into the top four to get back the pull we had four or five years ago when we were comfortably in the Champions League year in, year out and challenging to win it.

"Players who come and get the club back into the Champions League will experience some of the biggest nights of their career, because playing European football in front of this crowd is different to any other."

Mention famous Champions League nights at Anfield and thoughts drift back to December 2004 and Gerrard's late goal against Olympiakos, which put the Reds into the knockout stage by the slimmest of margins.

From there they went on to win the competition later that season in a remarkable Istanbul final against AC Milan.

The 33-year-old rates it among his top three strikes and he admits it was fitting to pick the Greeks for his testimonial.

"It's a bit surreal. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise how well my career has gone at this club," said the midfielder, who hopes to raise over ?1million for his charitable foundation from the match and gala dinner afterwards.

"Because of the timing of the goal, how important it was and what happened further down the line in Istanbul, that is the reason we decided to go down the Olympiakos road.

"If we were to have gone out on that night, this goal would never get mentioned. But because we went on to win it, when I look back that goal became very important to the club and myself personally - it's certainly in my top three goals I've ever scored."


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