One of our biggest failings this season has been allowing the contract sagas of a number of our key players to run and run. Regardless of whether it’s Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson or Martin Skrtel, it’s not productive.
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The club can, of course, only be blamed to a certain extent. It’s a difficult balance between the importance of not being held to ransom and ensuring that you keep hold of your best players.
Losing Sterling, Henderson and Skrtel – arguably three of our four best players along with Philippe Coutinho – would be disastrous and could set Brendan Rodgers and co back years with their ambitions for success.
However, what’s done is done. Henderson signed his new deal on Thursday, all but ending speculation linking him with a move away and completing the first piece of the 2015-16 season puzzle.
The focus should now be on sorting out those remaining deals well in advance of next season.
If reports in the Liverpool Echo are to be believed we are close to tying down Skrtel. Coutinho signed his new deal back in February, while another promising young star in Jordon Ibe is believed to close to putting pen to paper on a long-term extension (via The Independent).
These four players – Skrtel, Henderson, Coutinho, Ibe – this is the quartet around which our future should be built around. It would be a shame to lose Sterling, whose deal has undoubtedly proved the most problematic, but it would not be a loss that a £50m transfer fee couldn’t cure.
As has been reported on multiple occasions – including here from Sky Sports – Sterling has ruled out committing to anyone until at least the end of the season, ensuring he has had time to consider all of his options.
We’ve heard plenty of different opinions over his levels of commitment and his lack of top class performances in recent weeks, but ultimately the youngster needs to be left alone to make up his own mind.
Let’s focus on what we do have…
Skrtel, an experienced veteran of a centre-half these days, who can help mould the next generation of young Liverpool defenders. Jon Flanagan, Alberto Moreno and Mamadou Sakho are all comparative youngsters and still need to improve before they can be considered top class players – something the Slovakian can help.
Henderson, not a like-for-like replacement for Steven Gerrard in terms of his quality, but almost definitely in terms of his commitment, work-rate and leadership. He needs to be Mr. Consistency for us next year, the guy we can always rely on to turn in seven and eight out of ten performances.
Coutinho, a player who at just 22 has the potential to be one of the best players in the world. He has that Brazilian swagger that so many of the greats do. If you consider how much he’s grown over the last two years then you’ll realise the possibilities for his continued success, should he be managed in the right way.
And in Ibe, we have about as close to a Sterling 2.0 as we’re going to get – a young English player whose good on the ball, powerful and direct with his running and has pace to burn. By all accounts, he’s even got an excellent ‘footballing brain’ (via The Guardian). That’s to say he’s clever. He knows how to get the best out of his own game, and that’s something Sterling might just be lacking right now.
Fear not Liverpool fans, Sterling or not, the future’s bright after all!