The boy who became king: Ten years after he turned heads against Arsenal, Gerrard has become one of the world’s top midfielders

There were no complaints about the result, but Thierry Henry still had something on his mind as he made his way off the pitch at Anfield after losing 2-0 to Liverpool in late August 1999.

Tapping team-mate Patrick Vieira on the shoulder and nodding towards a figure nearby, the Arsenal striker asked: 'Who's that kid who was in their midfield?' The reply came complete with a word of warning for a still unsuspecting Premier League, as Vieira said: 'Steven Gerrard and he's going to be a brilliant player. Just you watch.'

Steven Gerrard

Proud: Steven Gerrard, Liverpool's captain, holds the European Cup

Henry and Vieira have since moved on, but one constant remains from that August afternoon in 1999. Visiting players are still leaving Anfield shaking their heads at the way exceptional natural ability keeps being supplemented by a burning desire to lift Liverpool above the rest.

It has proved a winning combination in the decade since Gerrard made his debut as a substitute against Blackburn, and Henry marked today's 10th anniversary by revealing how the pair have built up a close friendship in the intervening years.

'I didn't even know who he was on that first visit to Anfield, but Patrick soon put me right,' said Henry, now at Barcelona. 'I didn't need any reminding after that, and Stevie and I went on to become really good pals.

'When you admire someone so much, you end up talking to them whenever you play them. I always told him how highly I rated him, and he said the same to me, so we exchanged numbers and kept in touch from there.

'I can't think of a striker anywhere in the word, let alone a midfielder, who has scored so many important goals. How many times has he done it in the dying seconds? It is incredible. I really would have loved to have played with him and we did talk about Liverpool before I went to Barcelona. But it would have been difficult for me to join another Premier League club after Arsenal.

Steven Gerrard

Winner: Steven Gerrard shows off the PFA Young Player of the year award alongside Player of the Year Teddy Sheringham

'It was a disgrace he didn't win European Footballer of the Year after Istanbul in 2005 and, for me, he will be regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time when he finishes.'

The 28-year-old from Huyton could have been finished almost before he started, according to Phil Thompson, who described the full extent of the groin problem that cast a shadow over his early years. A rampaging figure with endless energy these days, he literally hobbled from one game to the next until surgery finally provided a cure.

'He really struggled with a fitness regime we put him on,' said the former Liverpool assistant manager. 'He didn't have the stamina and we realised there was something wrong with his muscles and recovery. It was going to be a tall order for him to make it as a top professional because we were being told he couldn't play two or three games a week.

'He was fine playing but would always have a groin, thigh, hamstring or calf strain the following day that prevented him training. In the end, he had a minor 20-minute operation either side of his groin that meant missing the 2002 World Cup. He got stick in some quarters for letting England down, which was ridiculous. It was that or his career. The surgery seemed to do the trick.


Friendly rivalry: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard is consoled by Thierry Henry after Arsenal had beat them in FA Cup

'When they beat AC Milan in Istanbul, I rang Rick Parry to congratulate the team. I was the first Scouser to lift the European Cup as captain of Liverpool. After a quick chat with Rick and the chairman, he passed me over to Steven and I said: "Feels bloody great, doesn't it?" And he just said: "I always wondered what it would be like if it ever happened to me, but I never ever imagined it would feel as good as this. I can't explain it. It's just one of the greatest feelings of my life".'

If Gary McAllister had any doubts about how much playing for his home club meant to Gerrard, they were soon dispelled when the former Scotland midfielder completed his shock move from Coventry and reported to Melwood for training.

'I have never seen anything like it,' said the Leeds boss. 'The ferocity and endeavour Stevie showed was the first thing that struck me about life at Liverpool. It was just short training games we played, but you would have thought his life depended on it, the way he went at it.'

Gerrard may have made his name as a marauding midfielder, but another Anfield great, Graeme Souness, believes his most effective role is just behind the main striker.

'I don't see him as a stereotypical central midfielder,' said the former Liverpool captain and manager. 'He is more what is known abroad as a number 10, someone who sits behind the strikers and makes things happen.

'I wouldn't disrespect him by saying he is like Francesco Totti at Roma because he works much harder than that but he operates best in a similar position. He's explosive and the single biggest reason why Liverpool are challenging for the title.'

Jamie Carragher puts Gerrard alongside Kenny Dalglish as 'the greatest footballer ever to wear a Liverpool shirt', while Jamie Redknapp still remembers with awe an early sighting of the new Academy graduate at their Melwood training ground.

'It was one of his first sessions with the seniors, and it said everything about him,' said the former Liverpool midfielder. 'I gave him a pass early on that he hit 50 yards to someone on the left flank, then, a couple of minutes later, he steamed into a 50-50 with Paul Ince and smashed him up in the air. A few of us looked at each other and just thought: "What have we got here, then?"

'After he filled in on the right of defence in a Merseyside derby and kicked two off the line in a 3-2 win, my dad asked me: "Who was that you had at right-back? He was like Superman, that kid."'

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