It was revealed last night that Raheem Sterling plans to leave Liverpool in the near future, rejecting their contract offer believed to be around £100k a week to move to a club with better title prospects. Reports from Sky Sports say he has felt “bullied” by the club in signing a new deal and that he’s not been protected by the club from headlines in the media.
Many Liverpool legends have come out against this, from Jamie Carragher to John Barnes to Phil Thompson, with all of them defending the strength of Liverpool Football Club and the absurdity of a 20-year-old holding the club to ransom. However, it also shows the significant shift in modern football that player power is absolutely everything.
It does seem wrong that he’s demanding such a contract, the pay is good for a 20-year-old who’s proven he’s got ability but has yet to show that he’s absolutely world class. The ambition he’s showing, however, shouldn’t be in question and the pressure he’s putting on Liverpool to improve as a whole should not be ignored.
It actually reminds me of a situation with Wayne Rooney in the past, where he’s demanded better terms and better players surrounding to maintain title challenges and the club buckled in the end. They convinced him to stay, for the better of the team and paid the amount he felt he was owed.
The fact that Sterling isn’t looking likely to sign a deal sends a message to other youngsters in the team that they better play ball with Liverpool or they will be wanting to leave too. In this day and age, that’s a very dangerous game to play where you begin to become the selling team rather than the destination for top talent and that can see you struggle quickly.
It’s pivotal for a club like Liverpool, with a big fanbase and big expectations, that they keep their best players when they can and do it as early as possible. It was almost a formality that Luis Suarez was going and in all honesty, they didn’t have a hope in keeping him in this player power-centric era but when someone like Sterling, who looks like your future, can’t be retained then big questions must be asked.
In my personal opinion, contreversial as it is, they should give Sterling what they want. Clubs do have to operate on a budget but at the same time, they aren’t restricted by rules in any way so why not pay him whatever he wants? He could be a focal point of your club for years to come, a gem that other teams will be jealous of and that your own team can build around. That’s always lost when thinking about the attitude and the money.
It’s a difficult thing to hear but in the balance of power, players hold all the cards. They can hold clubs to ransom because having top quality talent is the only way to win and whilst clubs try to be stubborn, it tends to lead to issues like this, where there seems to be no way back. It might not be the end of Liverpool’s troubles should this kind of negotiation tactic continue and whilst they should have kept him, their only option is to sell and re-invest. And then hope that works out a lot better than it did last summer.