By Siddharth Raj Kapoor
Twitter – @KopChants
Raheem Sterling is a star in the making. Ever since breaking out as a young teenager and scoring 5 goals in an FA Youth Cup game against Southend United, Sterling’s talent was palpable to everybody. He became the talk among every Liverpool fan and this resulted in him making his debut at the tender age of 17. He even became Liverpool’s youngest ever goal scorer after scoring in a league game against Reading. He was the shining light in a poor first year for Brendan Rodgers.
However, Sterling’s promising start went downhill after sometime. He found it tough to deal with the growing pressure put on him and had numerous off the pitch problems. At one point, he was almost farmed out on loan to bring in Mohammad Salah. However, fate intervened and the Salah deal imploded and Sterling transformed into an integral part of a team that almost challenged for the elusive title. He reveled in playing at the tip of the diamond formation that Brendan Rodgers had devised for the Reds. This season, he has grown into a regular starter and was even regarded as the main man in a team short of stars.
Recently, Sterling has made the news, but for the wrong reasons, with an issue surrounding his contract. If the media is to be believed, Sterling is reluctant to sign a new contract because of wage issues. Various media outlets have covered the story and some sources have even claimed that Sterling wants 150,000 pounds per week. There has also been a recent interview with the BBC surrounding this situation. While it might be debatable whether Sterling deserves those wages or not, what is for sure is that the figures he is asking for are astronomical. Is he really good enough to earn those wages?
The first point to be considered is that wages as high as 150 thousand are reserved for the very best players that make the most desirable impact on a team. Is Raheem Sterling the best player on the Liverpool team? Can he be depended to bail the team out when they are in trouble? It doesn’t seem so. For starters, Sterling tends to fade way in big games. For example, in the Champions League game against Basel, Liverpool needed someone to bail them out and Sterling hid behind Steven Gerrard’s shadow. Another example of this is the Europa League game against Besiktas where Sterling was completely anonymous. If he wants to earn the bug bucks, Sterling has to provide.
The next area into consideration is his goal scoring and genuine impact on the team. While plain goals and assists may not paint the whole picture, it is an undeniable fact that Sterling does not score as much as he should and his chance conversion is not the best. Sterling has played close to every game this season and has only 10 goals in all competitions with many of them in an attacking position. An old and declining Steven Gerrard has the same number of goals as him. In fact, there was a long period in October-November, where Sterling did not even register a single goal. He is definitely a player that blows hot and cold. Can Liverpool really afford that?
Thirdly, there are age and off the pitch factors that have to be taken into consideration. While it has become a common adage to say, “If you are good enough, you are old enough”, the fact of the matter is that it can have a harmful effect on the dressing room if a player of Sterling’s age is given such high wages. Issues like seniority and hierarchy should not exist but do in the dressing room and if Sterling is rewarded with a new contract, others might either feel jealous or treat Sterling with derision. It could lead to turmoil in the back. Politics is defined as “activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization”. With backstage politics in Liverpool, Sterling might have trouble dealing with the status quo at Liverpool.
Additionally, very few players around the world, regardless of club, are paid that much money, especially at Sterling’s age. Players like Julian Draxler and Hakan Calhanoglu are definitely talented but earn nowhere near the amount of money Sterling wants. Calhanoglu, for example, only earns 60,000 euros but that does not make him any less talented. There is also the fact to consider that Sterling has achieved next to nothing in the game, yet. He has little European and international experience and this is his first full season in the Premier League. He is nowhere close to being a world-class player, no matter how much fans want to deny it. Lastly, if Sterling is to be paid that much, he instantly becomes an ambassador for the club and will he be prepared to handle the responsibility that comes with it. These are all issues that have to be considered.
Sterling’s worth aside, the bigger issue here is how does this saga reflect on Liverpool as a club. In the past few years since FSG have taken over, changes have been made. However, one thing that cannot be argued is that the club has fallen short in terms of transfer dealings. In Brendan Rodgers’ tenure, only Mamadou Sakho is a big name that has come into the club. Normally, other clubs are very quick and effective in transfer and contract dealings. Recently, Real Madrid signed Danilo with no media fanfare and no hiccups. Chelsea have been very efficient with their dealings. They have either paid the money for players they want or sold players who they want to move on.
Liverpool is a club trying to get back on its feet and these kinds of issues are things that the Reds have to deal with to be taken seriously. If they think that Sterling is part of their future, they should pay the money but if they do not, they should let him go. Chelsea did that with Andre Schurrle, Kevin De Bruyne and many others and Liverpool should do the same. There should be no if’s, but’s or maybes. These debacles should not occur in the future as it makes the club looks like amateurs. The Raheem Sterling contract issue has gotten out of hand and it is the club that should make a unanimous decision on what to do. A club of Liverpool’s stature should not be forced to lie down and be played around by agents.