Another summer, another star player linked with a move away.
While I feel it’s still early to say we are a ‘selling club’, Liverpool football club have done little in terms of keeping their star players over the last few years. The list of reasons as to why that happens is long, boring and quite frankly repetitive.
This approach has damaged the club in the last few years. Before, it used to be the case that putting your pre-season betting bonus on Liverpool qualifying for the Champions League seemed to be a good move – now, the heroics of two seasons ago notwithstanding, it’s a poor choice to make, even if you are essentially spending free money.
Moving on from what has happened in the past, it seems normality is set to resume at Anfield once again this summer.
Raheem Sterling wants a move, his agent wants him to move, the fans are not too keen on seeing him at Anfield next season, and Fenway Sports Group believe every player has a price. It will happen, eventually.
Manchester City had a 25 million pound bid turned down yesterday and are set to return with a 40 million pound offer within 48 hours. If common sense prevails, City will get their man and Liverpool will reach a compromise somewhere closer to the 50 million mark.
Raheem Sterling is an outstanding young player and Liverpool will miss him. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t miss the European Golden boy? But unlike the Suarez situation, the Sterling shaped void can be filled.
Here are three ways Liverpool can improve on this season, even without Raheem Sterling.
Promote from within
‘Butterfly’ as is he commonly referred to, back in Portugal, Lazar Markovic is a tremendous alternative to Raheem Sterling. Last season has been extremely frustrating for the Serbian, who has been deployed as a wing back often.
Playing in a more attacking role against the likes of Sunderland, Markovic looked like a player worth paying 20 million pounds for. Most Liverpool fans agree that Markovic has been poorly used and has paid the price to accommodate our manager’s beloved, Adam Lallana.
Sterling departure opens up a window of opportunity Markovic needs.
Further, the development of Jordon Ibe has been particularly pleasing. The young winger has looked fearless, direct and efficient.
Despite being an advocate of replacing a star player with a proven player, I am of the belief that Sterling’s replacement is already at the club and we are better off spending the money elsewhere.
Sum of its parts
Football has mostly been about finding the right balance in a team and rarely about individuals.
Should Liverpool decide to get rid of Raheem Sterling, the money has to be utlised in plugging the gaps and getting a stronger first eleven from top to bottom.
Brendan Rodgers’ side is crying out for a right back and a centre back, along with a creative central midfielder and a defensive one.
Getting Markovic and Ibe to fill in for Sterling and investing the cash on a quality centre back and central midfielder will not only add greater balance to the side, but address the glaring weaknesses in Rodgers’ first team.
All about choices
You can have an array of superstars at your disposal, but it means little if they are not used properly.
Brendan Rodgers needs to settle on a formation that suits his players and brings the best out of them. Furthermore, Rodgers will have to swallow his pride and allow the likes of Markovic to shine instead of sacrificing them to justify signing Lallana and Lovren.
Rodgers’ team selections and tactics have been questionable at crucial stages of last season. The first half of the season saw him persisting with Dejan Lovren in defence, despite the Croatian’s abysmal performances.
It took an injury to his ‘defensive rock’ to bring Sakho back into the fold. The Frenchman made an instant impact defensively and Liverpool clinched a series of clean sheets during a superb unbeaten run.