We all knew that the Raheem Sterling saga was one that would drag on for most of the summer, but not many of us saw the twists and turns coming that have taken place since the season ended. From Sterling’s agent Aidy Ward saying that no amount of money offered from Liverpool would get his client to sign a new contract through to the youngster’s representative calling Jamie Carragher a ‘knob’, no one in the Sterling camp is coming out of this well.
Yesterday the Liverpool winger reportedly met with Brendan Rodgers and told him that he’d like to be sold and didn’t intend to travel with the rest of the squad on their tour of Australia and the Far East. Today it has emerged that he didn’t turn up for training this morning, calling in sick instead.
It seems clear that the player’s actions are deliberately intended to force Liverpool to allow him to leave. The problem he’s got is that John W Henry and his cohorts at FSG set a precedent during the summer of 2013 when Suarez tried to do a similar thing. Henry famously tweeted asking what people thought “they’re smoking over there at The Emirates” when Arsenal bid £40 million plus £1 for the controversial Uruguayan. The Gunners thought they’d triggered a release clause in Suarez’s contract, Henry told them to go to hell.
So if Sterling thinks his current behaviour is likely to make his position at Anfield untenable then he hasn’t learned from history. If anything the way he’s behaving may well make the Liverpool hierarchy more determined to get every last penny they want for the Jamaican born England international.
In stark contrast to Raheem Sterling is the behaviour of Jordan Ibe. The Liverpool youth prospect, who doesn’t have an agent and is represented by his mum and dad, has been at Melwood since the end of the season, practicing shooting and getting attacking tips from Kenny Dalglish.
Meanwhile Danny Ings, who Liverpool have signed from Burnley even though a price has yet to be agreed, has cut his holiday short in order to join up with the Liverpool squad as soon as possible. He also refused to take a low shirt number when he had his choice of the digit that would go on the back of his new jersey. The 28 year old instead opted to wear the number 28 shirt, saying, “Obviously I am going to work my socks off to earn that [low] number one day. For now I will take a high number and work hard”.
Compare and contrast the views of Danny Ings and Jordan Ibe with that of Raheem Sterling.
Obviously the youngster is entitled to believe that he is a unique talent who has a lot to offer to the Premier League. Even the most ardent Liverpool fan wouldn’t deny that he has more chance of regularly winning trophies at Manchester City than if he stays at Anfield. Plus there are plenty that will point out that Sterling was lured to Liverpool in the first place by the promise of more money than he was getting at QPR, so nobody should be surprised that money is still a motivation for him.
Yet there’s a way of handling yourself as a young professional at the best of times that Sterling seems to have forgotten is what he’s supposed to do. It seems as though Aidy Ward has filled his head with dreams of conquering the world before he’s 21, meaning he’s behaving as the best player the world has ever seen when the truth is he’s still got a long way to go before he gets there.
What does Sterling think he’ll achieve with his current behaviour? Whilst Ibe and Ings are being roundly praised for their attitude towards the club that pays them handsomely for their work, Sterling is earning himself a reputation as a mercenary, as someone who values money over self-respect.
Forcing The Issue
The noises emerging from the Sterling camp suggest that the youngster doesn’t want to play for Brendan Rodgers any more, that the manager has lost his respect. It’s an interesting notion, but does it actually hold water?
At the start of the summer the reason Sterling’s camp gave for him wanting to move on was that Liverpool weren’t going to pay him enough money. Then they changed their tune and said that money wasn’t an issue, that it was Liverpool’s lack of ambition that meant that Sterling felt it was time to move on.
Given the signing of Firmino and the rumoured approach for players like Pedro at Barcelona and Benteke at Villa, the Sterling camp can no longer suggest that Liverpool are lacking ambition.
How else, then, can Raheem Sterling suggest that he no longer wants to stay at the club? Blaming the manager and suggesting he no longer wants to play form him taps in perfectly to the current trend in Liverpool fans that the manager isn’t good enough. It makes those fans that aren’t keen on Rodgers feel as though it’s somehow his fault; that he hasn’t done enough to win over the 20 year old.
Here’s Raheem talking about Rodgers in 2013: “I can’t talk any more highly of him as a person, not just as a manager. He’s a top guy”. Here he is on the gaffer in 2014: “It’s great to have a manager who believes in you; as a young player that is what you cry out for. I’m grateful”. There are also rumours that Sterling had dinner at the manager’s house as recently as two months ago.
Are we really to believe that Sterling thinks Rodgers has gone from being the best possible manager he could hope to play for to an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing in the space of 2 months?
Isn’t it far more likely that Aidy Ward has suggested to his client that the best way he can force his big money move to Manchester City through is to tap in to the Rodgers Out brigade’s biggest fears about the manager and make his position untenable?
Should Liverpool Sell Him?
The question Liverpool Football Club now has to answer is whether they’ll be better off selling the precocious young talent. Is it better to get him off the books in exchange for whatever amount Manchester City are willing to pay, or should they stick to their guns on the matter and demand as much money as they can get for him?
There’s no question that Sterling could go on to become one of the best talents in world football. Despite what rival club’s supporters would have you believe, his statistics are up there with both Messi and Ronaldo at the same age. But will he achieve that feat playing part time at a club like Manchester City, where the manager is liable to have to use the most recent big name signing that the club have brought in?
That isn’t Liverpool’s concern, and the only question they need to ask themselves is whether the player can ever play for the club again without the crowd baying for his blood at every moment.
The reality is that Sterling is contracted to play for Liverpool FC for another two years, so regardless of how he decides to behave the club have the upper hand. They need to decide whether either the player or the money are worth the hassle. LFC could tell Manchester City the player’s latest outburst means he’ll now cost £60 million. If they refuse the pay that for him then the player himself will be in a very tricky position.
If he’s made to see out the rest of his contract, Liverpool will obviously miss out on the money that a sale would offer. However the player would have to work incredibly hard to salvage any kind of reputation, meaning that Liverpool would have a £60 million rated player playing for them on the wages of a 19 year old kid.
One thing is for certain, if Sterling thinks throwing his dummies out of the pram will make Liverpool accept less than their current valuation for the player, he’s very much mistaken. He’s making demands that are the purview of the world’s most talented players, but he’s displaying behaviour that suggests he’s little more than a spoiled brat being very badly advised.