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Dec 4, 2009

500-up Gerrard targets medals not milestones

Steven Gerrard reaches 500 games for the club at Blackburn on Saturday, insisting it is medals not accolades that drives him on.

The Liverpool skipper has only just retained a measure of full fitness following a groin problem, during a period in which the Anfield club have plunged out of the Champions League as well as the Premier League's top four.

So Gerrard maintains the importance of securing a Champions League spot for next season - by finishing in the top four - far outweighs any personal success with such an appearances milestone.

He says: "It is a really proud thing to reach milestones from a personal point of view, a great feeling. But I would like to think when I hang up my boots I will look back on prizes not personal milestones. As a player I never, ever think I am in the top this or that. Although I do have a confidence now that I am a good player, and that I can compete at a high level, but that's it.

"It's great to have these accolades, but it doesn't mean much without prizes. Football excites me and the big prizes excite me even more for club and country. You want to win them all. I want to win what I can for Liverpool, and for England, and I'd love to look back at the end of it and feel as if I have achieved everything I can in that respect.''

Gerrard admits he never considered such a landmark when he started out, also against Blackburn, 11 years ago facing the likes of Chris Sutton and Tim Sherwood. He said: "When you are such a young age you don't look too far ahead. It has always been drummed into me by my dad and my coaches not to look too far ahead.

"At that stage when I started out, a long career wasn't even in my mind, because maybe you don't think you're good enough, or you dare not look ahead. You just want one game, then a few games, and you can't start thinking you have made it. Not ever. I never dreamed I would get so many games, and it is a great feeling to hit that landmark.''

Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez insists his captain can play another 200 games at the top level for the Anfield club. He said: "When Stevie is on top form, Liverpool can beat anyone.''

He added: "To reach 500 games for one club is remarkable. Usually good players don't stay with one club. Bigger clubs with more money tempt them away. He is certainly one of the very best players I have ever worked with. When I was at Real Madrid I worked with people like Raul and many other very good players who did very well in the first team.

"Like them, Stevie is known as a top-class player all around the world. He has won a lot already in his career, but if we can win even more trophies with him he will go down as one of the best players in history.''

Gerrard famously said in his autobiography he craved the day perfectionist Benitez just said "well done'' to him. So for Benitez to talk of his midfield inspiration as potentially one of the best players of all time, is praise indeed.

He said: "He is at a good age and is very professional. If we can keep him fit he can still play another 200 or more games for this club, hopefully at the same level he has shown for many years now. Steven is the kind of player that can make a difference in a game. We want him to keep doing that for another four years or so.''

"To play 500 games is a massive achievement for any player, especially at the same club. He has reached this stage by showing the same passion and commitment for many years. His loyalty to Liverpool is to be praised, few players do what he has done for his local club. Steven is a key player for us, the kind of player that can make a difference in a game.

"We have some important players but Stevie is one of those that, when he is playing well, the team can win any game. It doesn't matter if the other players aren't playing well, he can win a game for you with one special moment. Steven is capable of doing this for you. But you cannot win trophies with just one player, You need a team behind that player. But if you have a good team, players like Gerrard can make the difference.

"He's set very high standards but, of course, cannot play at the same level all the time. That is why he needs the team to be playing well with him. But by putting other good players around him he can be the best and you can be sure of winning more games.''

He added: "When I moved to Liverpool he was one of the players I knew could help us. If you have quality in your players you know as a manager that you can do more with them. You can always improve players but it's not always easy when they are already at a very good level.

"Stevie was one of those players but I think he is better now because he has been learning for years. He has learned under different managers but for the past five years we have been talking a lot about different parts of his game and how he could improve. He has always been willing to learn. He is always learning and knows the game much better now than when I first came to the club.''

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