London: Steven Gerrard is second only to Zinedine Zidane in terms of his world-class status, says former England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen. Gerrard, the current England and Liverpool captain, has recently converted to playing a deeper role for his club, a transformation that is paying dividends and should offer food for thought for England boss Roy Hodgson, according to Owen.
"I have played alongside some of the greatest footballers of my generation, but there is only one ex-team mate I would rate higher than Steven Gerrard," he said in the Daily Telegraph.
"The biggest compliment I can give him is he is second only to Zinedine Zidane in terms of his world-class status."
Owen played alongside Zidane at Real Madrid as well as lining up with Gerrard from Liverpool's youth sides all the way through to the national team.
"As he evolves his game in the latter years of his career for club and country, it is no surprise he is continuing to excel. His new role at Liverpool as a deep midfielder is a position he can play blindfolded," Owen added.
"So far, it is working ideally, offering plenty to ponder for England manager Roy Hodgson as much as Brendan Rodgers." Liverpool manager Rodgers echoed Owen's sentiments and pointed towards Gerrard's increased number of assists.
His nine assists this season has put him joint top of the Premier league leaderboard with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and has equalled his career high with a third of the campaign still to play.
The 33-year-old produced a superb performance on Wednesday, setting up Daniel Sturridge to score with a clever throughball and firing home an injury-time penalty as Liverpool twice came from behind to beat bottom club Fulham 3-2.
"His pass the other night was out of this world. And then composure for the penalty. That's a world-class player," Rodgers told a news conference ahead of their FA Cup fifth round tie at Arsenal on Sunday.
"You hear the term, and there's many who show you that quality when their team is 2-0 up in a game, but you see a real world-class player when you're down, and that's what Steven does."
Liverpool travel to Emirates Stadium looking to dump Arsenal out of the FA Cup eight days after crushing the London club 5-1 in the Premier League.
Rodgers was quick to stress that while that result would be in the back of the Arsenal players' minds, Sunday would be completely different.
"It's a different game and a different competition," he said. "We're away from home and I trust the players. We know it's going to be a difficult game. There's no question about that."