STEVEN GERRARD has vowed to deliver the European football Aston Villa's billionaire owners crave, after replacing Dean Smith in the Villa hotseat.
The 41-year-old Liverpool and England legend called time on his successful three-and-a-half year reign at Rangers yesterday to fulfil his ambition of managing in the Premier League – eight months after crushing Celtic's 10-in-a-row dream to deliver Rangers' first title in a decade.
Despite his lack of Premier League experience as a boss, Gerrard has clocked up more than half a century of European ties during his time at Ibrox, reaching the last 16 of the Europa League twice.
And he made it clear, once he removes the threat of relegation for Villa following five successive defeats, his sights will be set on returning the club to the European stage which they famously conquered in 1982 to become kings of Europe.
Villa's co-owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens sacked Smith on Sunday because they believe the squad they have invested heavily in should be capable of a top eight place and challenging to qualify for Europe.
Gerrard, who has agreed a three-and-a-half year deal worth a basic £4million a season, said: "Aston Villa is a club with a rich history and tradition in English football and I am immensely proud to become its new head coach.
"In my conversations with Nassef, Wes and the rest of the board, it was apparent how ambitious their plans are for the club and I am looking forward to helping them achieve their aims."
Villa moved at breakneck speed to tie up Gerrard and his backroom staff, including former Villa caretaker boss Gary McAllister and highly rated first team coach Michael Beale.
They met the £3.5million compensation clause demanded by Rangers to land Gerrard, who was the top choice of Villa CEO Christian Purslow, who was Liverpool's chief executive during the height of Gerrard's playing career.
Purslow said: "We are excited he has agreed to lead us in the next phase of our ambitious plans as we look to build on the progress made since Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens took over the club in 2018.
"Since moving into coaching after his illustrious playing career, Steven began by managing and developing top young players in the Liverpool FC academy which is experience we value highly at Aston Villa.
"It has been very clear in our discussions with him that Steven's coaching ambitions, philosophy and values entirely match those of Aston Villa."
Gerrard will now prepare to take his Villa bow in front of an expectant Villa Park support against Brighton in eight days, with tough tests against Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Manchester City before he makes an emotional trip to Anfield to face Liverpool on December 11.
Meanwhile his sudden departure has left Rangers looking for a new boss ahead of a crucial Scottish League Cup semi-final against Hibernian at Hampden and vital Europa League tie against Sparta Prague.
Gerrard expressed his gratitude to Rangers for backing him in his first managerial role and used his Instagram account to write: "I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone associated with Glasgow Rangers, especially the fans, for the love and support you've all shown me during my time in Scotland.
"Winning '55' will always hold a special place in my heart – each and every one of you played a part in that and, believe me, there will be many more to come.
"I hope in time you can understand and accept my decision to move on but I honestly fell in love with the club and will always follow the team. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger 55."
Rangers Chairman Douglas Park paid tribute to Gerrard and said:"He has provided us all with some unforgettable moments, not least his delivery of the Scottish Premiership title back to Ibrox last season having not lost a match in the entire league campaign.
"In European competition, he has restored the good name and credibility of our club on the continent and leaves us in a very healthy position on the pitch."
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