As one of the most forthright pundits on English television today, Rio Ferdinand tends to draw controversy. The former Manchester United and England man is not short of an opinion on, well, anything. He also has a habit of making grandiose statements and claims – his infamous ‘Man United are back’ comments after United won against Paris Saint-Germain lives long in the memory.
With the football season now over for the most part, many fans were hoping they would be spared his hot takes until August. Sadly not.
Ferdinand is always keen to have a dig at Liverpool for obvious reasons, but his recent take regarding former Reds legend Steven Gerrard has raised a few eyebrows. The defender was on a tirade about the lack of loyalty in football in the modern game. As part of his FIVE podcast, the Red Devils legend tore into the Anfield side for their lack of loyalty to Gerrard.
The topic of loyalty came up on the podcast, and the case of Jack Grealish upsetting Aston Villa fans by going to Manchester City came up. Ferdinand was quick to turn the tables on the discussion, though, saying that clubs do not show enough loyalty to get the same reciprocation back from the players they buy and sell.
What did Rio Ferdinand say about Steven Gerrard?
As per usual, he reached for a Liverpool example to reinforce his point, saying: “Let’s look at the Steven Gerrard case, he’s been loyal to them. He had obscene offers probably from Chelsea, they courted him, they tried every which way they could through players, and what not trying to get him and unsettle him.
“He became unsettled, flirted with the idea a little bit, but actually, loyalty probably made him stay at Liverpool. Whatever happened, he was courted by Chelsea. He decides to stay, and then he gets towards the end of his career and the club don’t want to give him a new deal.”
He continued his tirade, saying: “Bearing in mind [he’s] arguably the club’s best-ever player, been a part of iconic moments at the football club and would have had so much to offer young players staying there from a culture, a mentality and somebody they can look at and identify as a local lad, but they let him go to LA Galaxy,
“There was the ability for him to stay there as a player-coach and groom him into being a coach in the system that they’ve got or a manager, but they chose to do something totally different and allowed him to go to LA Galaxy.
“So when you talk about loyalty maybe if the club were being shown an element of loyalty there they might have gone, you know what, because of that loyalty he’s showing us, we’re going to give him a bit back at the end of his career.”
Now, ignoring the fact that Ferdinand shouldn’t talk about loyalty given he traded in Leeds United to go to Old Trafford, and the fact he grew up supporting Liverpool, it is a rather odd discussion point. There are many other examples that could be used – Gerrard played his entire career with Liverpool bar one swansong season in Los Angeles.
Liverpool didn’t kick him out, an exit was agreed. As soon as his jaunt in America was over, he was back coaching at Liverpool. There are many, many examples of loyalty not being shown in football – a local-born lad choosing to go abroad and to play for one final season isn’t a lack of loyalty. Liverpool couldn’t provide Gerrard with the games he wanted in the twilight of his career; why would staying to be a bench piece have benefited him or the club?
Football is littered with cases of poor loyalty. Gerrard not being kept on due to a desire to play games that then-coach Brendan Rodgers could not guarantee is not one of them.
On his own loyalty issues when leaving Leeds, Ferdinand said in the past that his reason to leave Leeds was “simple” because he went to United to “win trophies” – and that Leeds should have been “thanking” him for leaving as they needed the money. In what way, then, can he possibly get pious about teams not showing loyalty when he carried out the exact actions he is now using as a stick to beat Liverpool with?
The former England man can be a good pundit, of course, and he was a top class operator as a player. But talking about loyalty? Maybe that should be left to others who actually walked the walk.