“I’m on the outside looking in now,” Steven Gerrard said as he was unveiled as BT Sport’s star signing during the channel’s launch of its new Champions League and Europa League channel BT Sport Europe.
The former Liverpool captain will have to start getting used to life after Anfield, but Match of the Day host and now Champions League presenter Gary Lineker has some advice on getting into the punditry groove.
“The great thing of course is that they have great credibility, as former footballers that have been right at the very pinnacle of the game,” he said of his new colleague Gerrard and England defender Rio Ferdinand. “Therefore people want to know their opinions, and they value them.”
Gerrard seemed ready to make his opinions felt, saying that unsettled striker Raheem Sterling could develop into a “world class player” – but only if he stays at Liverpool.
“I hope he stays,” Gerrard said. “For his development as a player and a human being, he has a fantastic manager who can look after him, a great set of teammates, and it’s important he plays week-in, week-out and keeps trying to learn and strives to become a world class player.”
Lineker took this as a good sign for the former Liverpool player’s TV career: “He’s started very well, given us an honest insight and assessment of the Raheem Sterling situation. It bodes well that he’s happy to give his opinion, which is very important. You’ve got to be prepared to say what you honestly believe.”
The extent of Gerrard’s commitments to new employer BT Sport is still unclear. He has a contract with US club side LA Galaxy which begins this summer, with the MLS season running until October. An insider confirmed that Gerrard will not appear every week, although he will play a significant role in both Champions League and Europa League coverage.
His outspoken comments about Liverpool teammate Mario Balotelli while working for ITV earlier this season showed that he was not afraid to speak his mind, even when it came to his old club, but Lineker warned Gerrard that a great player does not necessarily make a great pundit.
“Work really hard on it, because it’s a totally different field than playing football,” he advised. “You have to throw yourself into it. Just because you’ve played the game doesn’t automatically make you a really good television analyst. You have to work at it.
“I worked with Rio in Rio [Brazil 2014 with the BBC], and he did exactly what you have to do. He threw himself into it, worked really hard, taking the opportunities that came along and made the most of it. Steven will obviously do the same if that’s ultimately where he decides he wants to go.”