Steven Gerrard: MLS is not an easy retirement league
Steven Gerrard says any player who wants to "have a holiday and retire" in Major League Soccer is in for a rude awakening.
The Liverpool legend completed his first MLS season with the LA Galaxy last month, and Gerrard told Eurosport International that the league is "a lot better than I initially thought."
In 13 league starts, Gerrard managed just two goals and three assists as the Galaxy crashed out of the MLS playoffs in the opening round.
Although Didier Drogba and some other aging players excelled after making the jump to MLS this season, Gerrard was one of three older Europeans who failed to take the league by storm, along with New York City FC's Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.
Gerrard insisted MLS is more than a retirement league, saying: "If people think they can come here just to have a holiday and retire, they are going to have a mistake because they won't perform well and they won't do their team justice because I have had to come here and work hard and get fit, make sure that I keep performing to play well."
Like leagues in Qatar and China, MLS pays famous names more than they would receive in Europe at an advanced age, and former United States international Landon Donovan told ESPN FC this week that there is "this impression that you can go [to MLS] and it will be easy."
But Gerrard said the standard of play is stronger than those unfamiliar with the league might expect.
"A lot of people talk about the MLS, about the level, but for me a lot of them are wrong," Gerrard said. "Until you come here and sample it yourself, you see how strong it is and how fit and professional the players are.
"Every single game is a different challenge, certainly on the road you come up against places and teams where it is very hot and very humid; some teams play on astroturf. So each game is very tricky and very difficult. The games at home, we've had a very strong team and we've enjoyed some really strong performances."
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Gerrard, who also ruled out any offseason loan this winter, said he believes the league will continue to gain greater respect around the world in the years to come.
"I think it is trying to improve in every area, and that's the reason why I have confidence and belief that it can keep continuing to grow. It is a great brand and a lot people put in great time and effort to improve the brand and improve the league," he said.
"You know a lot of TV channels all around the world have started to follow the MLS. A lot of big players from Europe have come over to try and strengthen the league. I am sure with time it will be continuing to grow and become a lot stronger."