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Has Gerrard's Loyalty to Liverpool Cost Him the Neutrals' Respect?

27/05/2015 16:54 BST | Updated 27/05/2016 10:59 BST

Frank Lampard bowed out of the Premier League in style, capping off a typically classy display with a goal that was vintage Frank - the slow saunter towards the penalty spot followed by a sharp check back and clinically executed finish with his weaker foot.

A standing ovation greeted his 77th-minute substitution, from all four sides of the Etihad Stadium where he has spent the 2014-15 campaign awaiting a move to sister club New York City FC. Those who stayed behind to absorb the subsequent lap of appreciation saw him held aloft by team-mates in adulation of a career that has so far yielded 885 appearances, 259 goals, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, one European Cup and several more.

It was a fitting farewell and one that no-one, not even the neutrals, could begrudge.

Much like his former England colleague, Steven Gerrard also found the net on his final Premier League outing, ahead of his own defection to Major League Soccer.

Again, it evoked memories of one of the country's greatest ever midfielders in his prime - a well-timed burst though the centre of the pitch accompanied by a neat finish into the far corner. In contrast to Lampard's effort, Gerrard's was a mere consolation in Liverpool's worst league defeat for 52 years - 6-1 at Stoke City.

Of course, Gerrard had already been bid adieu on the previous weekend at Anfield, following another toothless display from his team - this time against Crystal Palace. Outside of Liverpool, though, the reaction to Gerrard's departure was laden with vitriol.

Replying to a tweet by parody account BBC Sporf (which probably tells you all you need to know about this particular individual) one user wrote: "Putting rivalries aside Lampard has been a total legend. Gerrard just an overrated myth of a player. Good riddance to him."

Another, who opted against punctuation in favour of the Twitter-idiot calling card - a crying with laughter emoji - posted: "This will be one game Steven Gerrard will never forget complete and utter w*nker." A third added: "The perfect send off for a premier league legend who hasnt even got 1 medal. Brilliant. F*ck off Steven Gerrard."

A lot of disdain then, for a man who never wanted it to be about him. A man guilty of living out the dream to captain his town's team to greatness - albeit sporadic - just as we once did and still do.

It is because of this that Gerrard is so adored by those whose passion is Liverpool FC. In their eyes, he is the best player in the world - although this is diluted by the fact that few others have even come close to matching his high standards, whether through ability or, on occasion, loyalty. Gerrard remained where others did not: Owen, Alonso, Torres and Suarez among them.

This has never been a problem for Lampard. He was the one who left West Ham in search of trophies and these arrived in abundance at Chelsea, where he was idolised - just as Zola, Terry and Drogba were and still are. But in Oscar, Hazard and Willian, Chelsea found newer, younger players available who could do the things Lampard did in different and more contemporary ways. By the time plans were drawn up for an assault on this season's Premier League title, Lampard had served his purpose at Stamford Bridge.

In the end, Lampard approached Manchester City as he would an 18-yard box, ambling in at a half-pace and making everything thereafter seem effortless. This was a place where his talents could once again be appreciated.

​Six goals and an assist in 10 league starts - including the equaliser in September's draw with his former employers - certainly took care of that, even if City were to finish the campaign empty-handed. It was a transfer that was tailor-made for Lampard in his advancing years - a club with a stable base of star players and where his ageing legs would be preserved by energetic midfield companions such as Fernandinho, Yaya Toure and James Milner. By no means does this make Lampard a lesser player - arguably it makes him a more sensible one.

How Gerrard could have done with a supporting cast like that since Javier Mascherano left for Barcelona in 2010 - a year after Xabi Alonso had done likewise, but with Real Madrid. You wonder how Lampard might have fared alongside Jay Spearing, Christian Poulsen and Jonjo Shelvey - the price Gerrard ultimately paid for his devotion to Liverpool FC. Wherever your loyalties lie, that, like Lampard's decision to prolong his career at Manchester City, deserves respect.

And both players should be celebrated in equal measure.

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