Liverpool are in a perpetual state of limbo. The quip many fans make about “next year being our year” has seen two decades pass without the league title. So much promise yet at the end of it all the club seems to be in a never ending transitional period. Sales of star players has become the norm for Liverpool and looks to be carrying on this summer.
The Sterling debacle has already been rumbling on for 6 months longer than it should have been and moreover, a conclusion doesn’t seem imminent. This seems reminiscent to the Gerrard contract issue in 2005. The club should’ve offered him a deal straight away, in the aftermath of Istanbul but they lingered without intent. Steven Gerrard was at his most valuable then and the squad was average (If I’m being kind). Did it cross the minds of the owners and the manager to cash in on their most prized asset to rebuild? Nobody knows for sure but a big club ties their stars down to new deals.
The clubs’ hesitancy didn’t cost us with Gerrard, the lure of playing for his hometown club was too strong. This is where it all differs with Sterling. He isn’t a local boy. We were the highest bidders for him when he was at QPR and that’s why he’s here. No other reason. He has no affiliation with the club or the people. It’s a job. Whether he’s been advised poorly or his head has been turned by another club isn’t the sole problem here. For me, the big issue is why the club were once again slow with contracts.
Yes, Sterling has 2 years on his current deal so negotiations don’t usually start until now anyway but why, when Suarez left in the summer, didn’t Liverpool try to consolidate what was a fine season by offering new deals straight away to their best squad players? The likes of Sturridge, Coutinho, Henderson and Sterling all should have been sorted contract wise before new signings were made. Were Liverpool really at their weakest when in a strength of position? Did the unexpected highs of last season lead to us being arrogant about the future of players? Instead of ensuring we kept the players we just assumed they’d stay. The other three mentioned all got their deals at various stages of the season but the Sterling issue raged on.
I think Sterling is a fantastic talent and it’d be a real statement if the club do hold onto him this summer after everything that’s happened. His form has dipped since the contract issues went public and he is inconsistent. You’ve got to remember he’s also only 20. Despite his age he has amassed over 100 appearances for Liverpool in 3 seasons and averages 40 appearances per season. Let me reiterate he’s 20 years old and he’s playing 40 times per season for Liverpool FC, winners of 18 League titles and 5 European Cups. This highlights two things; this kid is good and the club isn’t what it once was.
I don’t feel he’s deserving of the the reported wages. I don’t think any player is worth those wages but it’s modern football. You have to imagine if you’re being tasked with firing us into top 4 this season then he’d likely want a wage in line with other players of that ilk. Poor planning by the club and bad luck with injuries the reasoning for him being integral this season. Had the club bought properly last summer and Sterling hadn’t have been so important maybe he’d be happy with a wage increase on par with Coutinho? Even so, the weight and pressure on his shoulders for someone of his age was ridiculous. The sniping from the fans started when he lost form. A shift to RWB saw his performances deteriorate even more. All the while fans were calling him lazy and heartless for these poor TEAM performances. Sterling played as the number 10 last season and absolutely bossed it. So it makes no sense to me when people are saying things like –
“Emre Can isn’t moaning about being played out of position. Steven Gerrard used to do it all the time when he was younger.”
Both of these players at the time hadn’t bossed their natural position at Liverpool. Sterling was integral to our title challenge last season as a number 10 and for some reason now he’s being used as a RWB. I’m all for versatile players but not at the expense of stunting their growth.
I’m sorry to break it to you but Raheem Sterling is nothing like Steven Gerrard. Or Robbie Fowler. Or Michael Owen.
When all of these talents broke through they were part of teams. Not always successful but they challenged. When Fowler broke through there was Rush and Barnes. When Owen broke through there was Fowler, Macca and Ince. When Gerrard broke through we had Owen, Fowler and Redknapp. When these players broke into the team we’d won a title in the last decade and the team was littered with experience and good players. The youngsters (Fowler, Owen and Gerrard) were all a supporting cast before developing into important players but they *always had a supporting cast. The hope we all feel towards winning the title now was at that stage more of a when not if feeling.
*Gerrard rarely had an adequate supporting cast but at the start of his career he did.
Now imagine if Gerrard had played a season with these star players, we’d finished 2nd and then Fowler got injured for the entire season. Owen was sold. Redknapp was leaving and the pressure of the whole Liverpool squad, and city, were on your shoulders as you’re the lad from the academy who gets the club and has this reputation. Then imagine a full-back that’s rarely played in the past two seasons is on double what you earn.
This is exactly what’s happened to Sterling and he’s being vilified for it. It’s nobodies fault solely. Just a monumental mess from top to bottom.
This is like Rooney moving to play with better players. Yes he’s greedy but did he make the right decision? Rooney was undoubtedly talented and yes he’d have gotten game time at Everton but the level he’d be playing at would’ve been inferior to that at United. Sterling may play more at Liverpool but if he were to move to a Chelsea or a City he’d gain more from their squad and coaches than he would here coupled with actual success.
The whole scenario reminds me of when Michael Owen left Liverpool in search of regular trophies. In hindsight you could say he missed out on Istanbul and had to play for Stoke and Newcastle but he did get that Premier League winners medal. He sold his soul for it but he damn well got it.
Similarly, Fernando Torres, when he was at Atletico he had the adulation of the fans and the captains’ armband yet he left in the search for trophies. He arrived at our doorstep and was adored by the fans. He and Gerrard formed a fearsome tandem but no trophies arrived and he was off again, this time to Chelsea. This time he won trophies. He played bit part roles but won pretty much everything there is in the game.
As a footballer you get, if you’re lucky, 15 years at the top level. Would you rather look back at it and say you played 400 games for one club before moving on or saying you won 12 Premier League medals and numerous other trophies? The only way the former outweighs the latter is if they’re a local boy (and even then it’s rare, just look at Torres).
The Sterling situation could become a common occurrence at Liverpool. There is blood in the water and sharks are circling for our top talents. What use is it having these kinds of players if we can’t keep them or give them the success they desire? I’d rather not be a finishing school for these players to see them leave when ready and win trophies elsewhere.
Could we be having the same discussion in 12 months about Phil Coutinho? Then in another 12 months after that about Sakho, Markovic or Can? 12 months after that it could be Ibe after everyone has hyped him so much and get on his back after some poor form.
Talented players won’t stick around without success or at least a sustained challenge. Not only that but we’ve not got any desirable players to play alongside right now. We’ve got a team here that’s won very little managed by a coach that’s won nothing of note and a club that’s owned by people who’ve little to no success as owners so far in terms of a trophy haul.
In this current state Liverpool FC is a springboard for potentially good players, and sadly that’s how we’re going to have to market ourselves until this trend is bucked. If not then the club will continue to stagnate in limbo and celebrate par finishes. The odd success here and there but nothing that actually gets built on.
This summer is the biggest in years. If Sterling is to leave the money we get for him needs to be spent on readymade stars to show the club mean business and aren’t just a selling club. Traditionally a big club, we need to start acting like one again. We need to start delivering trophies to keep these players content.