The Value Of Sterling

We Need To Talk About Raheem

In footballing terms, money talks. That’s pounds and pence, sterling. And it’s Sterling that we need to talk about – Raheem that is.

The Liverpool winger continues to be the subject of intense transfer speculation after he turned down a reported £80,000 offer from Liverpool Football Club. It seems the youngster believes he is worth in excess of £100,000 a week, and won’t settle for anything less.

By Biser Todorov (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Biser Todorov (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s incredibly difficult to talk about money in football with any sense of perspective. The BBC recently made a tool with which you could calculate how long it would take you to earn a footballer’s salary. Wayne Rooney earns £15,000,000 a year. If your salary was £25,000, which the BBC declares is the average wage in the UK, it would take you 599 years to earn what the United striker makes in 1. If you had started work in the year 1416, you’d just be approaching his yearly salary.

You v Rooney. Who Can Buy What?

What Rooney Can Buy What The Average Person Can Buy
A 60″ Smart Screen TV an hour (£1699) A £5 X-Box Live card (£5)
A 3-bedroom terrace a day (£40,000) Some Sennheiser MM headphones a day (£69)
A Lamborghini Aventador a week (£280,000) An iPad a week (£400)

There’s a story about a journalist who was having a chat with a footballer in a bar after he had finished interviewing him. They were off-the-record and the chat was about their varying lifestyles. The journalist said he’d been struggling to make ends meet since the newspaper he worked for had been making cutbacks and he’d been forced to take a wage cut to £20,000. The footballer replied, “what’s that, a week or a month?”

Sufficed to say, then, that trying to get your head around the money that footballers are paid in relation to what any normal person might receive for doing their job is virtually impossible. For this reason, Sterling and his agent might well say that £100,000 sounds obscene, but you have to think of it in relation not to yourself, but to the market value of footballers.

According to The Daily Mail in an article from November 2014, the average wage of a footballer in the Premier League is £43,717 a week. So the question has to be asked: is Raheem Sterling twice as good as the majority of players in the league?

The answer is, probably not.

Sterling As A Prospect

There’s no question that Sterling is a fantastic prospect. So far this season he has 8 goals and 8 assists from 42 appearances all competitions according to whoscored.com. He has played as a striker, a wingback, a midfielder and a winger. His versatility knows no bounds and he seems to learn something new every week. But he is still only a very good prospect; he’s far from the finished article.

Sterling v Walcott

If we look at Sterling in comparison to another exciting young player in Theo Walcott, we can see the Liverpool lad still has a long way to go. In the 2010/2011 season, when Theo was 21 compared to Sterling’s 20, the Arsenal player scored 13 goals and got 9 assists from 38 appearances in all competitions. Walcott was being paid roughly £60,000 a week at the time. He didn’t hit the £100,000 a week mark until two years later when he signed a new contract in 2013, aged 23.

Theo Walcott at 21 Raheem Sterling at 20
38 appearances in all competitions 42 appearances in all competitions
13 goals 8 goals
9 assists 8 assists
Paid £60,000 a week Wants £100,000+ a week

There are always two sides to every story, of course, and Sterling will certainly feel that he deserves more than the £40,000 he’s reportedly being paid. He’d also look at the players around him and wonder whether he’s even being paid a fare wage compared to the rest of the Liverpool squad, let alone other players in the Premier League.

According to The Sport Bible, Liverpool’s player wages were leaked online earlier in the season. The document, which found its way on to the Internet, showed that Fabio Borini, Emre Can and Phillipe Coutinho were all being paid £60,000 a week – one and a half times Sterling’s wage. Oussama Assaidi, Sebastian Coates and Jose Enrique – players that are either out on loan or not even in the squad – all also all being paid more than the Liverpool youngster. He’d be entitled to believe he should be on more money than them, owing to the fact that he plays regularly and makes a genuine impact on the team.

Sterling v Other Players In The Squad

Other Players Their Reported Wage
Fabio Borini £60,000
Oussama Assaidi £50,000
Jose Enrique £65,000
Sebastian Coates £50,000

Should Liverpool FC, then, just accept Sterling’s agent Aidy Ward’s demands for his client? Should they do whatever they can to hold on to one of the best prospects in the league? It’s a difficult question to answer.

The Way FSG Want To Work

By Webjedi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Webjedi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, have made it clear that they intend to pay close attention to the Financial Fair Play rules that UEFA have introduced in recent years. This means that, whatever Liverpool fans may desire, they will not be splurging big cash amounts on players or their wages in the forthcoming summer transfer window unless they first earn the money to cover it through qualifying for the Champion’s League (which they won’t) or player sales.

Given the option, should Liverpool let Raheem Sterling join a different club in order to receive the transfer fee, which they could then spend on trying to recruit a better player? Perhaps. But the problem with this strategy is that FSG are determined to continue a policy of recruiting the best young players in the hope that they come good in the future.

That policy of buying youth puts FSG in a bit of a catch-22 situation. They want to purchase prospects and hope that they come good, but then if they do just that they’re not willing to pay them the money the player then thinks they’re worth.

Market Value

The website transfermrkt.co.uk uses a series of key performance indicators to work out a player’s market value. It rates Raheem Sterling as being worth £26.4 million. Adam Lallana was signed from Southampton for £25 million and is paid £75,000 a week according to that leaked document. Lazar Markovic and Dejan Lovren came in for a reported £20 million pounds and are paid £35,000 and £70,000 respectively.

Player Cost Wage
Raheem Sterling £26.4m (estimated) £100,000+ (wanted)
Adam Lallana £25m £75,000
Lazar Markovic £20m £35,000
Dejan Lovren £20m £70,000

There’s no easy answer to the question, and hindsight will be the only way of knowing whether those at the top of the Liverpool hierarchy make the right decision. But Sterling, as things stand, is a player who may be exceptional in the future. He’s far from the best player in the Liverpool team, let alone the world, and there’s an argument that he shouldn’t be paid the wage of a world class player until he actually becomes one.

Sterling v The Fans

Another problem with the Sterling saga is that fans are, rightly or wrongly, losing patience with the young lad. His recent interview with the BBC was misjudged at best, inflammatory at worst. It seemed like the Liverpool winger had done the interview with the express purpose of putting across his point that he is not a money grabber, and that his reasons for turning down a new contract from the club were numerous and complex.

Yet he also said that he would have signed a new deal had the club presented him with one at the end of last season – the implication being that he would have been happy to sign up when the Reds were doing well, but that he’s not that keen now that the team is struggling. For a fan base who’s motto and anthem is You’ll Never Walk Alone, this sense of abandoning the team when times get tough isn’t what they want to hear.

Sterling also suggested that he wants to play further up the pitch and isn’t happy at being played at right wingback. Steven Gerrard has, during his Liverpool career, played in virtually every position apart from in goal. He’d argue that that constant shifting of positions, especially when he was younger, was a vital part of his development and made him the player he became. Perhaps if Sterling was less intent on complaining and quicker to try to learn everything he could he might become the world-class player he already thinks he is a lot faster?

What Will The Future Hold?

One way or the other some serious decisions need to be made at LFC this summer and Raheem Sterling is the test case. Liverpool fans seem to want everything all at once at the moment. They want FSG to abandon their plan of investing in the best young players around, but they also want them to do what it takes to keep Raheem Sterling, as he is one of the best young players around.

The fans want LFC to stop being bullied in the transfer market and to start buying proven quality, but they don’t want to be bought by a rich consortium like Manchester City as that would mean losing the club’s identity.

How FSG handle the Raheem Sterling situation will be a marker for years to come. Cave to his demands and they might find that all the other players in the team start asking why a 20 year old is getting paid more than them. Refuse to budge on the matter and they could lose one of the best young players in the game. Only time will tell whether they make the right choice. Whatever happens it’s going to be a long, tedious summer.

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