Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits he has an impossible task trying to find someone to fill the void that will be left by the "irreplaceable" Jamie Carragher. The 35-year-old centre-back announced yesterday he would retire at the end of the season after more than 16 years of first team football with the Reds.
"He has been a giant for me since I came in here, an incredible man, he is one of a dying breed," said Rodgers. "He is someone who has good real old school values and ethics but, as you can see from his last two performances, he still has the qualities to play at this level."
"You see a lot of rash defending nowadays but he defends with great intelligence, he knows when to mark a man and when to mark space and understands the basic principles of defending," Rodgers added. "He is an outstanding leader and organiser in the team and to find someone with all those capabilities and has the heart the size of a lion is very difficult."
Although his playing days may be coming to an end, Rodgers would like to keep the player whom he has used as a sounding board during his first season at Anfield close at hand. However, Carragher has yet to decide where his future lies.
"It is something he has thought long and hard about over the last 18 months," said Rodgers. "From now until the end of the season he just wants to concentrate on his football. Beyond that it is too early to say, but in relation to staying on it was always clear it was something I wanted Jamie to do."
With Carragher announcing his impending retirement, a sharper focus turns to Steven Gerrard. The captain is two years younger than Carragher (he turns 33 in May) but Rodgers believes he can go on for some time yet after putting in some stellar performances recently.
"He has been instrumental now for a number of months," he said. "He is adapting and modifying his game but he still has the qualities he has always had. This is a guy who has everything in the locker: a wonderful professional, a great man off the field - a real inspiration for any young player - who leads his life the right way."
"You see him on the field, his range of passing, his touch and his leadership qualities and his influence is getting stronger for me," Rodgers added. "He was outstanding (for England) the other night playing in that slightly deeper, controlling role which I think he can play as the years go on. He is able to dictate the rhythm of the game and some of the invention and creativity in his passing was brilliant and defensively he was very good."