Is it there?
With a putrid tinge of Louis Walsh here, and one of the many tiresomely predictable X Factor clichés that quite frankly, as with the programme, should have been binned years ago, the question is there to be answered. Raheem Sterling’s ongoing contract situation has led to a substantial amount of criticism on his contract advisors. But, should more be directed towards the man in question. His reported wage demands have brought him under immense scrutiny and understandably so – £150,000 a week for a 20 year old, at a club which has recently took great pride in its well-structured, balanced wage bills, is somewhat obscene. Subsequently, the question deemed worthy of raising is actually quite simple: Is Raheem Sterling a like-able character?
Contrary to what some might suggest when it comes to criticising key players, the manager, the manager’s missus, Colin Pascoe, or Colin Pascoe’s shorts – it is perfectly okay to dislike a player. Most don’t like Glen Johnson. I don’t like Glen Johnson. Those who do like Glen Johnson should probably log off. Raheem, obviously, is an extremely gifted individual who has been asked far too much of this season. Only a fool would deny his undoubted talent. He carried his national team at the World Cup; last season saw his club manager label him the brightest young player in Europe and now, upon contract renewal, he’s feeling slightly ambitious.
The well-documented £150,000 per week rumour has circulated over the course of the past few weeks, and before that was the £100,000 which was supposedly rejected. Many appear to have ignored the player’s contribution to that demand. As much as I hate to tar all with the same brush, an agent’s priority is to make as much from his client as possible. He’ll want as much as he can and that’s fine; natural almost. But, let’s not fall into the generously forgiving trap of entertaining Raheem has not been privy to said demands. Sterling himself has conveniently remained subdued throughout the saga, and hasn’t said much on the matter at all. Rodgers, on the other hand, has repeatedly asserted his opinion that Liverpool is the “best place for him and his development”.
After weeks of negotiation, and what looked a promising breakthrough earlier this year, negotiations have been postponed until the summer where it will be revisited.
Shortly after, Di Marzio drops the bombshell that Pep Guardiola is a keen admirer of Sterling and wants to add to his Bayern squad. Interest in such a gem was to be expected, and I’ve no doubt we’ll eventually have to start rejecting major offers. A timely rumour that seemingly illustrates his contract saga has been monitored nevertheless; the giants are watching and I’m not quite sure how many are all that convinced Sterling will eventually pen a new deal.
I wouldn’t hastily consider the notion he could be sold this summer – in fact, it’s a gross hyperbole of the contract troubles. Although, what would happen if Bayern did make a move for him? The Germans waltz in, tabling a £35m offer. Instantly reject? Sell? Tempted? Personally, it would be the latter.
To return back to the reported £150,000 per week, the simple reality is: He’s not worth it. Truthfully, he’s on the thinnest of all ices asking for £100,000 a week. He’s good, but his audacity is slightly greater here. The aforementioned Johnson is stealing a living on his current salary, where we can all thank Christ that is coming to an end, and in that respect Sterling has the right to ask to be up there. Put him next to Philippe Coutinho, who is estimated to be on around £80,000 a week – a far more plausible, impartial figure for a player of Raheem’s ability, which is by no means greater than the former.
Perhaps he’s following in the footsteps of his fellow countrymen. Luke Shaw’s big-money move to Manchester United saw him sign on a dotted line entitling him to approximately £140,000 a week; maybe that’s his inspiration. Except everybody with an ounce of common sense would consider that laughable, and it’s mirrored with Sterling. Giving him £150,000 a week would be a shocking move from the club for a cluster of reasons. Firstly, it would set a damaging precedent to other rising stars from the Liverpool academy. Jordan Ibe has burst onto the scene, cementing his place in the starting eleven before his injury. Jerome Sinclair – another bright prospect – has recently completed his move to Wigan Athletic on loan. Sheyi Ojo another promising. Would they be so foolish to expect equally illustrious contracts? Secondly, Sterling is 20 years old. Whatever the length of his contract, and providing he’s doesn’t either fall dramatically or is sold, would he be wrong to expect a wage increase come the time of renewal? Thirdly, what then of his comrades? Sterling would become our highest paid player. Sakho, Henderson, Coutinho and Sturridge could be forgiven for objecting, while potential arrivals could easily follow suit and ask for that extra couple of quid.
From a performance perspective, I sympathise slightly with Sterling. He’s not a RWB, and it’s upsettingly mind-boggling how, after conceding he’s not as effective out wide, Rodgers continues to deploy him there in favour of accommodating the inferior Adam Lallana in the front three. Sterling is a different kind of salad when compared with Lallana. Does that, however, excuse Raheem’s somewhat lackadaisical approach to the role? The emotion of Sunday was as powerful as ever to one particular team member, albeit lasting for approximately 41 seconds, but bar the exception of an ever-reliable Mamadou Sakho and possibly Simon Mignolet, to our detriment didn’t transmit to the rest of the side – including Sterling. There was a moment on Sunday where Sterling bottled out of a tackle. If there’s one thing that unmistakably makes my piss boil, it’s the highest order of shithousery. It was anything but a £150,000 a week performance, in a mammoth fixture, and it’s been an alarming concern over the last few weeks. He looks distracted. He looks distant. He looks disinterested.
Gently paralleling with Jordan Henderson, who himself has delayed his own contract negotiation until the summer, projects a transparent antithesis. Henderson has almost become a bastion of spirited hard-work, dedication, concentrated focus and a solid work-ethic – the essentials for a less-gifted player. Henderson hasn’t looked jaded, though. In fact, he’s been one of the shining lights of the past few weeks.
To reign back the titular concept… No, I don’t believe he does. Sturridge is notorious for his attitude, but boasts the requisite charisma necessary to bond with a certain type of fan and executes it aptly. Balotelli too possesses an admirable propensity – he’s a rascal; a pest; a wind-up merchant. There’s a unique aura about him; Suarez was identical in this respect. Sterling? I’m not saying he’s bereft of individuality or character, but he’s shy to emit it, definitely.
At the moment, it seems all he’s interested in is his £150,000 pay-check at the end of the week. So, I’ll reiterate: Is it there?