Raheem Sterling appears to be undecided on his future, but should we be trying harder to convince him to stay?
His ongoing contract saga has been one of the biggest talking points of the season for Liverpool fans, with no one seemingly sure how best to approach the situation.
Should securing the future of one of the best young players on the planet be priority number one? Or should we, as we’ve done in the past, take the view that if he wants to leave, we should simply look for the best price?
It’s a difficult balance, and an argument that no one seems quite sure which side to stand on. Manager Brendan Rodgers had said himself that he’ll be powerless to keep the youngster, but has added on multiple occasions that the 20-year-old would be unwise to leave at this stage of his career.
Let’s look at the pros and cons. Starting with the former – the 2014 Golden Boy winner is one of the best players Liverpool have produced in the Premier League era, while his potential is virtually limitless.
Unlike the sales of Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez, which were done very much on our own terms, we’d be hurt to lose such a quality player, who is undoubtedly an integral part of Rodgers’ future plans.
When we sold Torres to Chelsea, it was with the inside knowledge that the Spaniard was already in decline – following his struggle with injuries. Similarly, we made Suarez – a player about to turn 28 and facing a three-month suspension for his latest World Cup bite – the third most expensive footballer of all time!
The Sterling situation is very different. While we’d be likely to bag around £50m – maybe more – for his sale to a Manchester City, a Real Madrid or a Bayern Munich – we’d be selling a future prized asset, with many more years still left in the tank.
This is a player who has already, despite his tender age, played 112 games for the club, and also scored 22 goals. He’s become a key player for both club and country, and is capable of moments such as the one below.
Re-watch Sterling’s wonderful solo goal against Chelsea…
Case closed? Perhaps not, let’s look at why we MIGHT consider letting him go. Over the years many players have peaked early, before fading into mediocrity. It’s worth remembering that the likes of Manchester United mega-flop Anderson, and the now little heard of Alexandre Pato were also ‘Golden Boy’ winners.
Another great teenage star from Liverpool’s past – Michael Owen – arguably hit the peak of his career in his early 20’s, and then never recovered from a succession of injury woes.
Even if Sterling does maintain his meteoric rise to success, who are we to criticise Rodgers’ decision not to give in to the player’s contract demands.
We’ve already put an offer of a £100,000-per-week on the table – an astronomically good deal for a player of Sterling’s age – and it is easy to see why the boss would be concerned about such a young player receiving ‘too much too soon’.
In addition, the Northern Irishman – along with the rest of the Liverpool hierarchy – have done a wonderful job of cutting back our wage structure in recent years. A number of the biggest earners have gone, or are about to go in the case of Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson, and we’d be foolish to risk endangering ourselves again, particularly with the new and improved FFP rules.
And finally, if Sterling – and more specifically his representatives – want to force their way out of a club that has done so much for his career, why stop him. It will not be Liverpool who come off looking bad, it will be the money-driven young player who’d rather sit on the bench elsewhere than continue his development at Anfield.
Fingers crossed, that situation is not one that ever develops. Sterling might have called off further negotiations until the end of the season, but the ball is in his court – he knows we all want him to stay.
But rather than fret over the ‘will he, won’t he’ scenario, we should do as he is doing – and turn our focus to our top-four challenge and winning the FA Cup. Because, let’s put it this way, if we achieve both of those goals this season, he’s going to find it very hard to walk away!