Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will join the Los Angeles Galaxy after the Premier League season, confirming Wednesday he will follow David Beckham’s footsteps by joining the Major League Soccer dynasty.
The 34-year-old midfielder will move in the July transfer window, arriving at mid-season in the American campaign, and try to help bring the Galaxy a fourth title in five seasons.
“At this stage of my career I think the timing is right to move on to a fresh challenge,” Gerrard said in a video on the league website. “I’m going to be moving to the most successful team in the United States.”
Gerrard made it clear he still considers himself talented enough to contribute at a top level, a notion some with Liverpool questioned, leading him to look elsewhere.
“I still feel like a player, still know I can perform well for the next couple of years, so I want to go in to a setup with a winning mentality, a team that’s used to winning and with people that also want to win in the future,” Gerrard said.
“I’m not going over there for a holiday or to endear myself. I’m going over there to win.”
Terms of the deal were not announced, but Gerrard is believed to have signed an 18-month contract, which British media reports suggest will be worth around Â£6 million ($9.1 million, 7.6 million euros).
– Liverpool bond ‘will never end’ –
Gerrard said last Friday that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the current campaign, ending a 25-year association with the club that has seen him make 696 appearances and score 182 goals.
“The relationship with Liverpool doesn’t end in the summer. In fact it will never end,” the Anfield legend said. “I’ve still got a few things to try and achieve before I go so my focus is on that. There will be plenty of time to get excited after the (English) season.”
Liverpool are eighth in the Premier League after 20 matches, seven points adrift of fourth-place Southampton in the final Champions League place.
Joining Galaxy will reunite Gerrard with former Liverpool team-mate Robbie Keane, the standout Irish striker who was named MLS Most Valuable Player this season and who scored the winning goal in the championship match against the New England Revolution last month.
Former England teammate Beckham, who spent five years with the Galaxy, blazed a path to late-career North American clubs that has also seen French star Thierry Henry join New York Red Bulls, Frank Lampard set to play for debuting club New York City FC later this year and Jermain Defoe move to Toronto.
Gerrard was courted by Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and team president Chris Klein before taking the new deal.
“Their pursuing me was very aggressive,” Gerrard said. “All the talks with them have been very positive. It was them telling me what I wanted to hear, told me about the winning mentality of the club, about their aims and goals are for the future.
“That basically suits me at this stage of my career. They want success and that’s what I want to finish my career. They all seem to me like they are winners and that’s how I see myself.”
– ‘An excellent example’ –
The Galaxy won their fifth MLS title in December and have a vacancy in a non-salary-capped position thanks to the retirement of long-time star Landon Donovan.
“We’re very pleased to acquire a player of Steven’s caliber, experience and character,” Arena said.
“He is one of the most decorated players in the world and will join our team with a wealth of success playing at the highest level of the sport.
“Steven will be an excellent example to our young players and we’re excited to add him and his leadership to an already talented roster.”
Gerrard famously inspired Liverpool to glory in the 2005 Champions League final, when they came from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan on penalties, and has also won two FA Cups, three League Cups and the UEFA Cup.
But he has never won the Premier League title, with Liverpool having narrowly lost out to Manchester City last season.
He won 119 caps for England and captained his country at three major tournaments before retiring from international football after last year’s World Cup.
In an interview with a British regional newspaper, Gerrard explained that he had decided to leave Liverpool after manager Brendan Rodgers told him he was no longer guaranteed a starting place.
“I’ve never wanted to be a squad player,” Gerrard told the Liverpool Echo. “If I was missing games now, I’d be sitting out even more next season. I knew it would get worse and worse as time went on.”