Former Liverpool midfielder and now-pundit Jamie Redknapp insists he knew club captain Steven Gerrard was destined for stardom within seconds of seeing him in action.
Handed his debut under Gerard Houllier in November 1998 at the age of 18, Gerrard would make 13 senior appearances during his first Premier League campaign, deputising for then-skipper Redknapp in the heart of the lineup.
He would go on to take the armband from Sami Hyypia in 2003, marking 11 years in the role this week, but his ex-teammate claims it was their first training session together at Melwood that his talent was evident.
‘I remember the first time I ever saw him play, it was in a training session at Melwood. They brought a kid over, a young right back, and Steven had come over, by all accounts, just to keep him company,’ Redknapp wrote in his Sky Sports column.
‘I passed the ball to Steven and instead of setting it back to me for me to hit a pass, like most young players would have done, he turned and hit a 30-yard ball. I went: “wow!”
‘I went over to him and said, “cor, you can play” and he just looked at me and smiled. I said to Gerard Houllier afterwards, “what a good player he is”, and Houllier said “which one?” He thought I was talking about the right back!
‘But straight away, if you had half an idea about football, you knew you were in the presence of someone incredibly special. That’s exactly what Steven was – and still is.
‘When he first got in the team he played right-back, right-midfield, defensive-midfield, centre-midfield, up front, off the striker... and over the years he’s been Roy of the Rovers for Liverpool.
‘He’s been an incredible captain and leader,’ he continued. ‘He’s not the most demonstrative or the biggest talker in the world and at times he looks like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders.
‘But he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with and I enjoy watching him, the goals he’s scored and the big moments he’s created. He’s been a very special footballer in the Premier League and will go down as one of the greats.’