Much of the discussion around Steven Gerrard’s potential return to Anfield centres on what Liverpool can offer him.
The top job at the club he has long supported, the chance to win the Premier League title that eluded him during his playing days there are plenty of reasons why an emotional homecoming holds appeal.
But it is worth noting that, of late, Gerrard has also doing a remarkable job of proving what he could bring to the Reds should he ever be appointed their manager.
Rangers are not only set to end their 10-year wait for the title this term, they are utterly dominating a Scottish top-flight season that has yet to see their first defeat.
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The Ibrox club are also going well in Europe, having reached the Europa League last 16 where they will face Leicester City’s conquerors Slavia Prague.
Yet, alongside those impressive feats, it is a development off the pitch that is likeliest to have piqued the interest of Liverpool and their innovation-loving owners Fenway Sports Group.
Namely, Rangers’ use of Zone7, the AI-led injury prediction tool that is helping keep the club’s star man on the pitch during the busiest season in history.
Analysing advanced data from tracking devices worn by players, the US-based company believe they can predict up to 75% of injuries with an accuracy of 95%.
And that is a claim they can make with some degree of confidence having partnered with over 50 clubs across the globe so far.
For Liverpool, the potential benefits of such technology seem obvious during a campaign that has seen their title defence fall apart due to player availability issues.
It is entirely possible, of course, that they are one of many unnamed clubs already quietly making use of Zone7 without letting it be known.
Regardless, with Klopp contracted until 2024, any suggestion that the Reds need Gerrard’s help to implement such infrastructure is jumping the gun.
Still, it is the fact that it says something about the club’s former captain as a manager that is perhaps the most important takeaway.
As ‘Moneyball’ devotees, FSG need their head coach to buy into the neverending search for a competitive advantage in the absence of the immense resources boasted by the likes of Manchester City.
It is a quality Klopp most memorably evidenced in conceding that Mohamed Salah was the right signing in the summer of 2017 despite his personal preference for other targets.
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And the fact that one of Gerrard’s right-hand men, Jordan Milsom, has publicly praised Zone7 is a fair indication that the Reds legend, too, is keen to embrace modern methods.
Rangers’ head of performance, who left Liverpool’s academy to join Gerrard in Glasgow back in 2018, recently told ESPN: “I believe AI, coupled with the experience levels of those using it, will eventually become a bedrock within clubs’ decision-making as data and technology advances.
“Given our players had been exposed to one of the longest lockdowns of all [93 days] and the unknowns associated with such prolonged layoffs, we felt investing in such a system may well provide another layer of support for how we managed the players on what would clearly be a challenging season.
“We haven’t used the system long enough compare season-to-season analysis, and it’s important to understand we are a department that is data-informed and not data-driven.
“But it is my opinion that if such systems are used in this way, it can have many positive benefits.”
For Milsom and Gerrard, one such positive benefit could well be a return to Liverpool in the not-too-distant future.
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