Former Liverpool forward John Aldridge believes Steven Gerrard should go down as the finest player in the club's illustrious history.
It was confirmed on Friday that Gerrard will conclude a decorated and much-celebrated 17-year Anfield career at the end of this season.
The 34-year-old former England captain has been a talismanic presence for Liverpool during the 21st century, most notably with game-changing performances in their 2005 UEFA Champions League and 2006 FA Cup final triumphs.
Gerrard also counts UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, League Cup and Community Shield medals among his collection, but has been unable to add the Premier League crown, skippering Brendan Rodgers' team to an agonising second-place finish behind Manchester City last term.
That means he played during a comparative fallow period when set against the Liverpool teams of the 1970s and 1980s, who comprehensively ruled the roost in English football and collected four European Cups.
But that is a factor that Aldridge - who played for Liverpool between 1987 and 1989 - believes falls in Gerrard's favour when assessing his contribution alongside those of other Merseyside greats such as Kenny Dalglish.
"I’d put Steven right at the top," the ex-Republic of Ireland striker said. "Kenny was unbelievable but he played with 10 top, top players.
"Stevie has played with mediocrity, a lot of mediocrity that wouldn't have got into Kenny Dalglish's team's reserves. He has single-handedly at times took us to where we shouldn't have been.
"You could say it's tarnished but that's not Steve's fault. If he had had better players than we have had then that would have happened [winning the Premier League].
"The squads in the last 18 years have been very poor, some of the teams have been really poor and we have over-succeeded because of Steven some seasons."
The most famous example of Gerrard lifting Liverpool to heights they might otherwise have been unable to scale was when he pulled the first goal back and drove his team-mates from 3-0 down to a penalty shootout win against Milan in the Champions League final.
Aldridge has no doubt that his exploits that night in Istanbul stand as the player's crowning achievement.
"Istanbul was just ridiculously good," he said. "The way that Steve grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and made it happen, got us to penalties - with the help of a few players obviously.
"His performance that night was heroic, it really was."
Replacing Gerrard is set to be a tall order for Rodgers and Aldridge believes his successors in the Liverpool midfield should not be placed under undue pressure over the coming seasons.
"If any young lads come in you can't say 'this is the next Steven Gerrard' because that will never happen," he added.
"He is a one off, he is the best player in Liverpool history in my opinion."comments