Steven Gerrard has admitted he calls Cristiano Ronaldo ‘the GOAT’ – despite previously insisting that Lionel Messi is football’s greatest ever player.
Ronaldo and Messi have left European club football behind during the final years of their respective playing careers. 38-year-old Ronaldo completed a move to Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr at the very end of 2022, while 36-year-old Messi joined MLS side Inter Miami over the summer.
Following Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia this summer was Liverpool legend and former Aston Villa boss Gerrard, who took up the chance to manage Al Ettifaq.
In an interview with Saudi Pro League channels, Gerrard credited Ronaldo’s influence as a reason why he too headed to the Middle East, hailing him as ‘the GOAT’.
“The arrival of ‘the GOAT’ as we call him, Cristiano, him arriving in January obviously [was] a huge signing. He still had a lot of football to offer,” Gerrard said.
“So, from afar, for six months, I was looking in at Cristiano Ronaldo’s results, at the league, watching some games and watching some highlights. I think from that moment, the league around the world had become a very popular talking point for everyone. After Cristiano’s arrival, even more big-name signings, talents and skill sets were joining the league.
“At the time it coincided with me being out of the game and looking for my next opportunity, so I was fascinated from afar looking in, and when my agent brought a couple of opportunities in the gulf area at the time, I was fascinated to explore them.
“The Ettifaq proposal and opportunity was the most exciting for me because I\ve signed up to a club where the board are very passionate. They understand where the club is at, they understand it’s something that’s going to need building, and it’s going to take time.
“That’s the reason why I was very interested to analyse this one, because in my job you need time. Especially when a club has finished seventh in the league and so many points behind the top four.
“That’s not an easy fix; it’s not something you fix in a week, a month, or six months. It’s a project to build on the pitch, which is obviously the priority, but also a lot of things needed to change around it to give the first team the support it needs.”
Though Gerrard has crowned Ronaldo as his pick for football’s greatest ever player, he has previously insisted that this title belonged to Messi.
“But I’m someone who would never have a derogatory word to say about Ronaldo, because he is phenomenal. They are the two in my era that were just…the numbers – when you’re a footballer and you’ve done it yourself – I’m not sure who’s going to ever do that again.”