I had no idea Jamie Carragher was planning to retire this summer, although it makes sense on many levels.
With the money on offer these days, most footballers will try to play as long as they can. Normally you only retire when there isn’t a suitable contract on offer, although there are exceptions.
Instead of dropping down the leagues, the top players nowadays tend to extend their careers by taking a payday in the USA or Middle East. I could never see Jamie doing that.
Jamie is used to being a first-choice player in a top league and, latterly, a squad player in a top league. He’s decided that the time is right and that he doesn’t want to be a burden to the club by taking a high wage to be a reserve player.
His love of the game – and of playing at the highest level – discounts a move abroad for one last pay-cheque. All he ever wanted to do was play for Liverpool and he’s sensible enough to have thought about the next step.
Jamie already has several options. He’s been doing his punditry, and he has his coaching badges. The obvious solution for Liverpool would be to offer Jamie a coaching role, either with the first team or the academy.
However, I’m not sure Jamie would want that, not long term anyway.
I think Jamie fancies himself as a manager and I can see him popping up somewhere as a ‘number one’, sooner rather than later.
You can never tell if a player will make a good manager, but Jamie has several transferable skills and attributes that would be relevant.
In addition to his undoubted love for and understanding of the game, Jamie had to work incredibly hard to establish himself as a player, to force his way into the team and win over the Liverpool fans.
He was an apprentice back when I was still a player, and even when he was very young you could see that he knew exactly what he needed to do in order to make it, and that he was prepared to do it – and more.
That belief and understanding of hard work and graft, plus all the experiences he’s had under different managers, will help him impart his wisdom and teach his players the game.
Often you hear criticisms of former players becoming managers as, while they were excellent footballers, they get frustrated while trying to manage or coach the less gifted, or they clash egos with the big stars.
But Jamie has always known his role in the team - when he was first choice and latterly as a bit-part player - and now he knows his role is outside the playing side of the game. He understands a dressing room, how to deal with big-name players like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, and how to deal with the less naturally talented lads, grafters like himself.
While Jamie has the ability and breadth of knowledge to help lesser players, his ambition is to manage at the highest level. In my view he shouldn't go further down than the Championship to do his apprenticeship, because so much can go wrong in the lower leagues, with finances and the professionalism of players.
I think Gary Neville – who like Jamie had to work very hard to survive at the highest level – has set a good blueprint for the career path of an ex-professional. TV pays ex-pros well and keeps them in the public eye, and alongside that Jamie could take on a part-time role at Liverpool or somewhere else. Once he’s ready, and once the right job comes up, I can see him becoming a manager.
Partly because he knew he had to work harder to get somewhere, and partly because of his natural character, Jamie is one of a dying breed of old-school players. You never heard any nonsense about playboy antics, because he lives the right way and does the right things.
Whatever Jamie’s next step, it is undeniable that Liverpool will miss him. Yes, his playing powers are on the wane, but in addition to the high standards and determination he brought to the pitch, you always want players like Jamie in and around the dressing room. He's a great pro and a great influence, and he will be sorely missed.