Reduced playing time led to Steven Gerrard's decision to leave Liverpool
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has explained how the likelihood he would see less playing time led him to quit the club.
Gerrard, 34, announced on Friday that this season would be his last as a player for Liverpool, and 24 hours later confirmed he would be heading to the United States to play for a Major League Soccer club in July.
But while the player himself insisted no decision has yet been taken on which club he will join, ESPN FC sources believe he will follow in the footsteps of fellow former England captain David Beckham and sign for LA Galaxy. They have a Designated Player position -- for high-wage stars -- available following Landon Donovan's retirement.
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Gerrard has so far spent his entire career with Liverpool, making his first-team debut in 1998, and has won trophies including the Champions League, UEFA Cup and two FA Cups.
But he is not ready to be reduced to a bit-part playing role, which discussions with manager Brendan Rodgers earlier in the season suggested would be the case.
He is expected to return to Liverpool as a coach one day, though Rodgers says the veteran was not yet ready to concentrate on coaching.
In an interview with the club's official website, Gerrard was asked if there was a particular moment that made him realise it was time to move on. He said: "Yes. There was more than one moment that has made me come to this decision, but I think the key conversation or moment was with the manager when he sat me down not so long ago and said it was time to manage my games for me and for the team.
"I'm bright enough to realise it is the right thing for everyone, but when you've been a starter and a mainstay in the team for such a long time, it was a very difficult conversation to have with the manager.
"I accept it and I'll continue to give everything I've got, whether I'm starting, coming off the bench or whatever, but that was the key conversation that swung me to deciding to come away for a short while.
"I had an idea it was going to come at some time -- I'm a human, not a robot. I'm not 24. I wish I was 24, I wish I'd met Brendan when I was 24 because I think I'd be sitting here talking about a lot of titles that we'd won together.
"The reality is, Brendan came into this club when I was 32 years of age and it's a shame that relationship didn't start 10 years ago. I had an idea the conversation was going to come at some time, but it was a painful conversation to have and that was the key moment -- along with other things over the last six to 12 months, but that was the conversation. That was the key one."
He added: "I'm not going to lie, it's been an emotional 24 hours for myself and my family, but there are still six months to go and I've still got plenty to try to achieve, so I am trying to keep my focus on that.
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"There'll be plenty of time for tears and sentiment come the end of the season. It's been a tough 24 hours and I've had to do some tough things that I'd never really thought of doing for a long, long time. Now that it's real, it's a bit of a strange feeling.
"I always have to put my family first -- and then I also think about myself and the club as one, really. I had to make a tough decision about what's best for all concerned. The reality is I am going to be 35 in the summer.
"I've been here for a long time, I've been coming to this training ground since I was eight years of age. I always knew it was going to end one day and that it was going to be an emotional decision. That decision is here.
"People will have their own opinions on it, but for me I think come the summer it will be the right time to move on and try something different -- come out of the club and the city and have a look in for a short while, and hopefully have the opportunity to return."
Teams captained: Liverpool, England.
Trophies won: FA Cup (2001, 2006); League Cup (2001, 2003, 2012); Champions League (2005); UEFA Cup (2001); UEFA Super Cup (2001, 2005).
Gerrard said his teammates were not expecting the news, and since Jordan Henderson has vowed to win the FA Cup for his captain.
"I think they were a bit shocked," he added. "It was as if the whole club had had some bad news. But I don't want it to be like that. I wanted to do the announcement after the Leicester game because I didn't want it to affect that game.
"But life goes on, it's normal and we carry on working hard for each other. They know what I think of them but it was also nice for me to see what they think of me as well. That was touching. But we're all men and we've got work to do. The challenge for us now is to keep trying to move forward and I'm sure we will."