STEVEN GERRARD is to stay at Liverpool - that is the astonishing news this morning after a complete u-turn by the Reds skipper.
Not 24 hours after announcing to the club he did not wish to sign a new contract and stay at Anfield, Rick Parry informed the media shortly before 9am today (Wednesday) that Gerrard had told him of his change of heart.
Contract negotiations started with the Huyton-born captain only a week ago but reports over the weekend alluded to those talks breaking down, with the player's agent Struan Marshall announcing on Monday that talks had broken down and were 'unlikely to resume'.
Chelsea reportedly lodged a £32million bid yesterday (Tuesday) which was turned down by Liverpool but were tipped to return with an improved bid, with interest from Real Madrid and the leading Italian clubs also expected to follow.
Liverpool then confirmed that the skipper, who lifted the European Cup in Istanbul only six weeks ago, had told the club he would not be extending his contract, which runs out in two years, and wanted to leave the club.
Yet, before the expected bidding war for the player's services has even got underway, a new twist in the story has emerged.
Rick Parry told Sky Sports News: "Stevie's decided to stay. It's a little bit like last year, only even more dramatic.
"Steven realises how much the club means to him."
"In the language he used to us, he never said he wanted to go. He never said 'I wanted to go'.
"I think in the last 24 hours he has reflected on it, he's thought it through and he wants to stay.
"There were lots of late-night phone calls and early morning phone calls. I couldn't be more delighted. It is what we wanted all along."
The Reds skipper is now expected to sign the £100,000-a-week contract that he reportedly rejected less than 48 hours ago and finally end the circus surrounding
It was during the Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal that momentum regarding a prospective move away from Anfield began to gather - with money-bags Chelsea making little secret of their admiration for the player.
Shortly after England's exit from the competition, with speculation rife that a £30 million move to Chelsea was imminent, Gerrard took the unusual step, with three years still remaining on his contract, that he would be staying at Anfield - but had given various serious consideration to leaving.
The whole issue of the player's future was a recurring theme of Rafael Benitez's first season in charge of Liverpool, with the topic often emerging at the head of the news agenda before important European matches, and Gerrard insisting he would 'look at' his future at the end of the season
He helped drag the Reds back from the brink of humiliation in the Champions League Final against AC Milan in Istanbul, scoring a goal and winning a penalty before going on to lift Liverpool's fifth European Cup and declaring in the emotional aftermath of the Final: "How can I leave after a night like this?"
The triumphant tour of the city and the successful lobbying to ensure the club's entry into the new season's Champions League competition appeared to cement to likelihood of the skipper's future being committed to the club, with contract talks opening shortly after the players' return to pre-season training in late June.
Rumours then began to circulate that the player was less than impressed with the club's lack of urgency in instigating talks and over the weekend unsubstantiated stories emerged of a alleged training-ground bust-up between Gerrard and Rafa Benitez, leading to a tabloid feeding-frenzy that a Gerrard move away from Anfield was imminent.
Now it seems the player will remain at Anfield - and Liverpool supporters will be hoping and praying the tedious saga surrounding the player's future has been settled once and for all.
Copyright - Liverpool Echo