Steven Gerrard, who announced his retirement on Thursday, played over 850 professional football matches since bursting on to the scene as a blossoming 18-year-old in November 1998.
ESPN FC takes a look at the five best moments of the midfielder’s illustrious career:
His first goal for England against Germany
Gerrard announced himself on international stage in England’s famous 5-1 win over Germany in September 2001. In just his sixth cap for his country, the midfielder scored his first and England’s second of the night with a powerful drilled effort.
“It was certainly one of the highlights of my career to score against Germany,” Gerrard said. “I remember us getting a set piece, it was cleared, got put back in and was cleared out. I just remember thinking to myself, ‘Just get a good touch on it, try and set it for a strike on goal.’
“My touch was perfect for once and I got fantastic contact — the pitch was wet and I put enough power on it to slide past a top keeper in [Oliver] Kahn.”
Gerrard’s first 21 appearances in an England shirt were all without loss and he is the country’s fourth most-capped player with 114 appearances.
Being named Liverpool captain
Ahead of a UEFA Cup meeting with Slovenian side Ljubljana in October 2003, then-Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier made the call to make 23-year-old Gerrard captain of Liverpool, replacing Sami Hyypia, who became full-time captain a year before following the departure of Jamie Redknapp and Robbie Fowler.
Houllier claims he spotted Gerrard’s leadership qualities early in his career and believed the pressure of the armband had begun to hamper Hyypia’s performances on the pitch.
“When he was young, all he needed was time to mature,” Houllier said of Gerrard. “Now he is 23 and he is ready. There has been a maturing in his game and his personality.
“The second thing is I think this decision will help Sami’s game too. I think he was ready to take on too much responsibility at times. There was no bitterness or resentment and I know Sami will recognise this is a decision I’ve taken for the team.”
Speaking recently, Gerrard opened up about the emotional toll of being Liverpool captain and how he had to be “thick-skinned” for the role.
Staying put at Liverpool
As is natural with world class talent, plenty of football’s elite sides took an interest in Gerrard at various points of his career. The closest he came to leaving Anfield was following the Champions League triumph in 2005 when he handed in a transfer request to the club he had been at since the age of eight, expressing a desire to join Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, with Spanish side Real Madrid also closely monitoring the situation.
“How can I leave after a night like this?” Gerrard said after Istanbul. Liverpool’s slowness to offer Gerrard a contract extension, along with the overall direction of the club, led to the midfielder being tempted by what was on offer at Stamford Bridge.
A brief standoff between player and club ensued before Gerrard made a sudden U-turn on July 5, 2005, that saw him sign a new long-term contract at the club just days later.
The Huyton-born No. 8 admitted in the years following that he could have won more at Chelsea, but believed what he would win at Anfield would hold more significance to himself and supporters.
Gerrard stayed loyal to Liverpool after that ordeal, even during the club’s darkest times under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, eventually leaving Liverpool in summer of 2015 for the LA Galaxy.
When he put pen to paper on his new deal back in the summer of 2005, it would have been hard to imagine that Gerrard would only add a further FA Cup and League Cup to his CV.
‘The Gerrard Final’
It’s a performance that Gerrard describes as his best out of hundreds in his star-studded career, with the 2006 FA Cup final now simply known as the “Gerrard Final.” Without his intervention, Liverpool would have suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Alan Pardew’s West Ham United side, who led 3-2 heading into stoppage time on that day in Cardiff.
Gerrard initially drew Liverpool level having been down 2-0, before Paul Konchesky’s cross somehow ended up beating Reds keeper Pepe Reina. The pressure of being favourites had an impact on Gerrard’s sleep the night before and he was suffering from cramping.
The lactic acid buildup around his leg muscles forced Gerrard to chance his foot from long-range with just minutes left on the clock when, in normal circumstances, he would have looked to pass to a teammate. The resulting effort was a thunderbolt that left Shaka Hislop in the Hammers goal hapless.
Gerrard’s celebration was a tired one and, after a heavy extra-time session, penalties were required to separate the teams.
Unlike in Istanbul the year before, Gerrard stepped up to take Liverpool’s third spot kick and duly converted. Reina saved Anton Ferdinand’s penalty to deliver Gerrard his second FA Cup winners’ medal.
The 2005 Champions League final
The influential skipper was a big reason why Liverpool reached the 2005 Champions League final. His famous last-minute strike at Anfield against Olympiacos saw Rafa Benitez’s side progress from the group stages when they seemed destined to drop into the UEFA Cup.
And from then on, the campaign had a feeling that Liverpool’s name was already on the European Cup on the run to Istanbul.
That was, of course, until the Merseyside outfit went into halftime 3-0 down to AC Milan in the final. Benitez made a tactical switch bring on Dietmar Hamann that briefly numbed the threat of Milan, but they needed a goal to get back in the contest and Gerrard provided it with a powerful header to make it 3-1.
The midfielder raced back to the centre circle following the goal, urging his teammates and the Reds supporters inside the Ataturk Stadium on. His contribution sparked the six-minute comeback to level the contest.
A fatigued Gerrard was moved to right-back in extra-time to counter the threat of substitute Serginho and helped take the game to a penalty shootout.
Gerrard was down to take Liverpool’s fifth — and, ultimately, winning — spot kick, but Jerzy Dudek denied Andriy Shevchenko to allow Gerrard to hoist Liverpool’s fifth European Cup aloft.
Glenn is ESPN FC’s Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @GlennPrice94.