As he reflects on the career of Steven Gerrard, Gerard Houllier wastes no time in explaining just how talented the former Liverpool captain was.

“Well you have three different classes of player. Premier League level, international level and world class,” he says.

“Stevie was world class.”

Such a statement from Houllier is of course undoubtedly justified when you reflect on Gerrard’s time at Anfield.

Having joined Liverpool’s academy at the age of nine, he went on to become one of the club’s greatest ever players.

The midfielder racked up more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, winning nine trophies in the process.

The pinnacle of course was lifting the Champions League in 2005 during that magical night in Istanbul.

Gerrard was a captain, leader and in many ways a one off – certainly compared to today’s modern midfielders.

In his pomp he did everything and was everywhere. One moment he would be making a goal-saving tackle, the next he would be lashing home a 30-yard screamer. Gerrard was all-action.

“He was very decisive in the top games and I think he made Liverpool win quite a lot of trophies,” says Houllier.

“He reminded me of a player that I had in Paris Saint-Germain (Luis Fernandez), who had the desire, the stamina and probably that ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck as we say.”

Truth be told, that was perhaps Gerrard’s greatest quality. When Liverpool most needed him, he would deliver.

There are countless examples to call upon, but a few naturally spring to mind with ease.

There was his stunning late goal against Olympiakos in 2004, which secured Liverpool’s passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Liverpool would go on to win the competition.

Then there was his outrageous stoppage time strike against West Ham in the FA Cup final of 2006. When, with seconds left, Gerrard fired the ball home to send the game into extra-time.

Liverpool would go on to win the competition.

Those magical moments came when Gerrard was captain and it was Houllier who first gave him the armband back in 2003.

For some such a responsibility can weigh heavily on their shoulders, but this was not the case in this instance.

“Well you know some players under responsibility they shrink,” admits Houllier.

“He was totally the opposite. He thrived and he blossomed, he probably developed more and was a better player.

“I think he got more maturity, both in his game and also as a man. So I would say the armband did him a lot of good.

“He was leading by example. He was never nasty and he was very good with the young players. He was giving them encouragement and confidence.”

Hearing Houllier speak about Gerrard’s work with the youngsters naturally brings about the subject of how he will fair as a coach.

Since hanging up his boots the 37-year-old has been working with Liverpool’s young players.

It is a role that few ex-players have taken recently, with most instead choosing to become pundits or go straight in as a manager.

However, by learning his craft away from the spotlight of first-team management Gerrard is able to develop at his own pace.

We saw during his career how he was a leader on the pitch and there can be no denying the influence he had over his team-mates.

That is a rare quality and something that cannot be taught. You either have that aura or you don’t, it is as simple as that.

Gerrard has it and it is why, as he continues to work his way up the coaching ladder, Houllier is convinced his old pupil will make it to the top.

“He has got all the attributes to be successful and he is doing the right thing step by step, because it is a different job,” says Houllier.

“When you are a player you think of yourself and of your career. When you are a manager or a coach you have got to think of the team, the club and it is of course a different bowl of fish as you say.

“Maybe one day we will celebrate his coaching career after celebrating his playing career.”

Liverpool