Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography release this week caused quite a stir but those offended by his remarks include two of Britain’s best midfielders of all time.
Liverpool fans voiced their disapproval via various social media platforms after Ferguson claimed Steven Gerrard was not a ‘top top player’ whilst Roy Keane expressed his own anger on Tuesday night’s programming with ITV responding to Ferguson’s comments that he basically wasn’t a very nice person or a good manager.
Whilst Roy Keane may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he was a very good midfielder and a passionate and commitment servant of Manchester United’s over the years which, for Liverpool, is exactly what Steven Gerrard – a captain, a leader, and one of the most talented British footballers of his generation. But, crucially, who is or was better?
Joey Barton hit back at Ferguson on Twitter – after claiming the manager couldn’t organize training sessions – in defence of Gerrard:
“Fergie obviously as good at judging players as he is at putting cones out. Steven Gerrard not a top, top player?”
“On a serious note. Gerrard for me, was better than Roy Keane. At one stage he was up there with the best midfielders in the World,” Barton continued.
I have to say, in my humble opinion, Barton is absolutely correct – Steven Gerrard has been at Liverpool since 1987, aged 7 years old then, and played no less than 639 games, scored 160 goals, spent the last 16 seasons in the Premier League, won the Champions League in which he was named Man of the Match in the final, the UEFA Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, two FA Cups, three League Cups and is the current England captain who will likely lead them out to Brazil in the World Cup next summer.
Individually, Gerrard has won the Ballon d’Or Bronze Award in 2005, the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year that same year, FWA Footballer of the Year in 2009, PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2006, England Player of the Year in 2007 and 2012, been included in no less than three UEFA Team of the Year awards, no less than seven PFA Team of the Year awards, been Liverpool’s top scorer in three seasons and was honoured by the Queen of England with an MBE in 2007.
Gerrard has earned 107 caps for England, scored 21 international goals, featured in three World Cup tournaments and three European Championships. What a player. What a captain for club and country. What a professional. What a role model to youngsters. What a loyal servant to the club and the city of Liverpool. I can’t think of a more capable, committed, and consistent player in the country.
Roy Keane, meanwhile, has perhaps a better list of domestic honours at club level than Gerrard given United’s success over the last decade or so – Keane has won seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and one Champions League title as well as the Scottish Premier League title with Celtic and has earned 67 caps for the Republic of Ireland with whom he featured in two World Cups.
He has been included in the PFA Team of the Year five times, and won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of Year both in 2000.
Keane was a different kind of captain for United – he was feared as much as he was respected which I don’t think applies to Gerrard who is humble and considerate and generally quite a nice guy and a helpful, calm presence.
Keane was the kind of captain who would bite your head off (figuratively) for a mistake but, in that, he was very passionate and committed and demanded a huge level of focus and excellence from those around him. Ferguson said there was relief in the dressing room when he left in 2005 and I can’t imagine when Gerrard retires there will be a feeling like that at Anfield.
Roy Keane’s best attributes as a player were mostly his physical presence and his combative style as well as his mental toughness but he was never as exceptionally gifted with a football as Gerrard is and has been – Keane scored 75 goals in his entire career over 625 appearances between United and Celtic but he was never altogether as consistent as Gerrard – the only outstanding year Keane had was in 1999/2000.
If we’re talking about passion and leadership, I do think Keane would be comparable to Gerrard but, if we’re talking about technical level and ability with the ball at his feet, Roy Keane comes nowhere near Steven Gerrard. How many British players get anywhere winning a Ballon d’Or? Only Michael Owen, Kevin Keegan, George Best, Bobby Charlton, and Stanley Matthews have ever won 1st prize. Five in 56 years.
Frank Lampard, and David Beckham are the only British players to come closer than Gerrard in his playing career to winning the Ballon d’Or. Roy Keane has never been anywhere near the thing, even in 1999/2000 at his best, his best was nowhere near Steven Gerrard.
Roy Keane, even in 1999/2000 was not even the best footballer at Manchester United (Beckham, Giggs and Scholes were). Steven Gerrard has been Liverpool’s best player and one of the best in Europe for more than a decade. It’s not even a fair comparison.
For Ferguson to say that Steven Gerrard is not a 'top top player', shows a complete lack of respect for the game and a complete disregard for one of the best talents England has ever produced - better than the majority of Ferguson's players, including Roy Keane.
I'm not even a Liverpool fan but rather a football fan and Steven Gerrard, when he retires, will be remembered forever as one of the best, one of the most professional and one of the most talented players of the century.