• Gerrard made 114 England appearances over 14 years
• ‘It is a sad day for me,’ says Liverpool captain
Steven Gerrard said he “agonised” over the decision to retire from international football following England’s dire World Cup campaign but had to be selfish and quit to preserve his career with Liverpool.
The 34-year-old announced on Monday that he was calling time on an England career of 14 years and 114 caps, the third-highest total in the country’s history. Wayne Rooney, given a cool reception by some England supporters during the team’s final World Cup game against Costa Rica, is among the frontrunners to succeed Gerrard, with Roy Hodgson short of established options for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Gerrard’s retirement was widely anticipated after England were consigned in Brazil this summer to their quickest World Cup exit, although the Liverpool captain says he discussed the decision in depth with Hodgson only recently. Liverpool’s return to the Champions League, the midfielder admitted, was a contributing factor in ending his England career.
“This has been a very difficult decision, one of the toughest I’ve had to make in my career,” said Gerrard, third behind Peter Shilton and David Beckham in England’s all-time appearance list. “I have agonised over this since coming back from Brazil and have spoken to family, friends and people close to me in the game before coming to this point.
“Most importantly Brendan [Rodgers] has been fantastic and obviously I have to look after my body as much as possible to ensure I can give everything when I take to the field. To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool I believe this is the right decision, and having Champions League football back at Anfield is another big factor in my decision.”
Gerrard claimed he remained in “great physical condition” and could play at international level until later this year but feared that would take a toll on the next “two, three, four years” of his club career. He added: “The most important thing for me was not to make an emotional decision or rash decision. I was asked questions before, during and after the World Cup to make a decision on my future and it wasn’t the right time.
“The first time I spoke to Roy properly was this week. I had tried to have an initial chat with him straight after the World Cup but I was too emotional to talk to him; I was still very upset with how the World Cup went. I’d have loved nothing better than to carry on and continue to fight for the England fans moving forward but there is a time when you’re a football player where you’ve got to make the right decision, when you’ve got to be selfish.”
Hodgson has now lost the experience of Gerrard and Ashley Cole in recent months and admitted England would miss the captain’s “leadership qualities” during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. Gerrard is to take up an ambassadorial role with the Football Association. Wayne Rooney is the favourite to succeed him as captain.
The England manager said: “While I’m disappointed in the decision I can entirely understand Steven’s situation and can have no complaints given the incredible service he has given to his country. I must respect his wishes due to the discussions we have had and the amount of thought and consideration he himself has given it.
“He is an incredible man and a fantastic footballer who we have all been blessed to see in an England shirt so often. It is never by coincidence that people reach such a staggering figure as 114 caps. It is a mark of his wonderful talent allied to a huge drive and determination to live up to the highest standard.”
The FA chairman, Greg Dyke, described the midfielder as an “England great”. Dyke said: “It is sad news but also gives us the opportunity to celebrate a wonderful career. Steven gave everything for England and he will be missed. He played at the highest level over such a long period. His longevity and determination will see him remembered by everyone as an England great.”