Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Gerrard downplays Zidane praise

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has played down the view of former France captain Zinedine Zidane that he is the best footballer in the world.
The 28-year-old England midfielder told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I was flattered, but took the comments with a pinch of salt.
"I'm really happy with my form but I don't think I'm the best; not at all."
Zidane made the claim after a Gerrard brace helped dump the Frenchman's former club, Real Madrid, out of the Champions League.
The 5-0 aggregate defeat of the nine-time European Cup winners prompted the World Cup-winning playmaker to lavish praise on the player he described as an "inspiration".
"Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo but, yes, I think he just might be," Zidane said.
"He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief. You can't learn that - players like him are just born with that presence."
Liverpool's progress to the Champions League quarter-finals prompted further victories in domestic competition, in which Gerrard again played a prominent role.
Is he the best in the world? Yes, I think he just might be
French great Zinedine Zidane
He scored in the Reds' 4-1 defeat of Premier League title-rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, before bagging a hat-trick in a 5-0 rout of Aston Villa at Anfield.
Despite such scintillating form and his position as second-highest scorer in the division with 13 goals, the Whiston-born international said there are many rivals for the title of the world's best player.
"I think it's difficult to say who is the best, I like watching players like Messi, Ronaldo. We're lucky to have so many top players who are a pleasure to watch, so it's difficult to put your finger on one," he said.
However, one criticism levelled at Gerrard throughout his career is that, despite proving a world-class performer for his club, he has often failed to translate such form onto the international stage with England.
"I am aware that I do need to be consistent for my country and to try and reproduce my Liverpool form. But I think since the new manager has come in my form has improved," he said.
"It was frustrating to miss the last two games but I scored in my last outing and helped set up a couple of goals, so I was pleased.
"It's very important to perform well for both this club and England - the idea is to finish the season strongly with Liverpool and then to be successful as we go into the World Cup year.
"Hopefully we'll qualify as I'd love nothing better than to have a fantastic World Cup and to perform on such a stage."

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