Steven Gerrard: haunted by his failure to win the leagueIf there is one thing Early Doors respects more than any other in the wonderful game of football, it's that rarest of beasts: the genuine one-club man.
Those players such as Tony Adams and Paul Scholes, who have woven themselves irrevocably into the fabric of their respective sides, and become icons and legends in their own lifetime. Players like Ryan Giggs, who have become the human embodiment of loyalty and commitment. On the pitch at least.
But despite this weak spot for a loyal club servant, ED also felt a tiny pang of regret at yesterday's news that Steven Gerrard had signed a new contract at Liverpool, in the process confirming once and for all that he will only ever wear the red of Anfield.
Not regret for the club and supporters of course, because for them the news of Gerrard's commitment is clearly fantastic. Having returned from a lengthy injury, three goals in five games has demonstrated he is far from a spent force and the club now has the security of a few more years from their captain fantastic.
No, ED felt regret for the player himself. Regret that when we come to look back on his career in future years, we might question that decision to turn down the advances of Chelsea in 2005 and instead yoke himself to a club approaching an era of sustained decline.
Attempting to retrospectively plot out a parallel universe is a practice by its very nature terribly flawed, but it is legitimate to wonder what might have been had the midfielder not reneged on his decision to leave Liverpool and join Jose Mourinho's side in the weeks after his greatest achievement in Istanbul.
Because, to ED's mind at least, the summer when a bewildered Rick Parry emerged to announce that having handed in a transfer request - a fact Manchester United fans are keen to remind Gerrard of - the club's captain would actually be staying at Anfield represents a pretty clear demarcation in the midfielder's career.
Yes, Liverpool won the FA Cup the following year, thanks in large part to that stunning late goal from their captain against West Ham, and they challenged so strongly for the title in the 2008-09, as well as reaching the Champions League final again in 2007, but that triumph in Cardiff garnered the only medal Gerrard has collected since rejecting the chance to join Chelsea.
What could he have achieved had he moved to Stamford Bridge? We will never know, and the curious case of Fernando Torres suggests the grass is not always greener in West London of course.
But with Gerrard at his peak and Mourinho in control from the sidelines, it is hardly a ridiculous leap of imagination to suggest that league titles would have been forthcoming. And for a player brought up on tales of Liverpool's domestic dominance in the 70s and 80s, his continual failure to win a league trophy at Anfield clearly weighs heavy.
It is a theme he has repeatedly revisited in interviews over the years. His tone gradually changing from expectation, to frustration and finally something approaching resignation as the seasons slip by inexorably.
The thought that his long service at Liverpool may not be recognised by a league medal is one that haunts him.
As he said in an interview in November: "It's something I think about almost every day. I always think about the dream of winning it - or the disappointment if I was never to win it.
"To have played at Liverpool for 14 or 15 years by the time I finish and not win it would be hugely disappointing. It would be an awful shame.
"I've played in an era where there have been three, four or five top teams in the league. When Liverpool dominated in the 1970s and 80s, they were so good they often turned it into a one-horse race from the start of the season.
"In my time, we've been fighting with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and now City and Spurs. They have all been, or are, fantastic teams - but that's the way football has gone. It's a really difficult competition to win but we'll always keep fighting for it."
Given Liverpool's current lowly status, a situation created by the deleterious reign of Hicks and Gillett and the diminishing returns of Rafa Benitez's final years , it does not appear likely Gerrard will reign in England before he is ushered into an ambassadorial role, and whatever that entails, at the end of his playing days at Anfield.
If no league title is forthcoming, there will be other glories to reflect on - how many footballers have a tale as compelling as Istanbul? - and other accolades to enjoy. There is little doubt that Gerrard will go down as one of the great English midfielders. His ability to bend a game to his will is largely unparalleled, even now, while his technical and physical qualities mark him out as a very unique specimen.
He will be an icon forever at Anfield. A spiritual totem for Scousers. One of the city's favourite sons. But will there also be a gnawing sense of what might have been when his final contract expires?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "City are where they are because of Sheikh Mansour and Chelsea thanks to Roman Abramovich. We have not done it that way and it makes me proud. You don't have to go out and spend fortunes to find good players. Spurs are not third in the Premier League because someone has walked through the door at White Hart Lane and slapped a bundle of money on my desk. City can pay players £200,000 a week, it's unbelievable. Man Utd wanted Samir Nasri but he blew them out for City. The people running Spurs have invested wisely." - Harry Redknapp has a little dig at two of Tottenham's Premier League rivals while simultaneously underlining his reputation as a wheeler-dealer. Just don't let him hear you say that though.
FOREIGN VIEW: It was a hectic day in Milan yesterday as both Alexandre Pato and Carlos Tevez took centre-stage. A day of claim and counter-claim was settled definitively, probably, when Milan pulled out of talks with Tevez following news that Pato would be snubbing interest from Paris Saint-Germain to stay at the San Siro.
Here's what the Brazilian had to say about his future: "I am staying at Milan. Milan is my home. I didn't want to interrupt my career at the Rossoneri after having won my first two trophies with this shirt. I want to contribute to the writing of Milan's history and the future success of this club... in perfect harmony with everything."
COMING UP: At lunch we publish the main part of our interview with Sir Alex Ferguson and there is plenty of fascinating stuff in there so make sure you don't miss it. As is tradition on a Friday, Jim White and Paul Parker will both be blogging for us, and in a bumper day of football features we also have the latest editions of Eurospot and Eye on Africa as we continue to preview 2012's two continental competitions.
Pitchside Europe previews one of the big matches in Europe this weekend and if you are planning any changes to your fantasy side ahead of the weekend, make sure you catch the Fantasist's latest live chat this afternoon.