You Decide: The Trial of Raheem Sterling

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Raheem Sterling, just the mere mentioning of his name evokes a wide range of emotions from football fans all over the world, especially Liverpool fans. He’s a player who now divides opinions on his talent, but seemingly unites opinion on how he’s handled himself over the past six months. It’s a shame just how polarising he has become amongst Liverpool fans and with some much speculation about his future, we would like to put forward the case for keeping him and the case for selling him.

Sterling Decide

Andy Wales on the case for keeping him:

The first thing I would like to make abundantly clear, is this is not a defence of Raheem Sterling, his agent or their conduct, this is purely a case for keeping him at the club. Obviously, that won’t be a popular viewpoint amongst many. Indeed, given what I’ve seen on Twitter, I’ll be amongst a very small minority that can see the value in keeping him and value is the key thing in my reasoning for keeping him.

If you go by the reported figures, his current wage is around £35k a week, which equates to roughly £1.8m a year. The talk is that his agent wants £150k a week, which equates to £7.8m a year. So, if we hold him to the two remaining years of his contract on his current wage, there is a saving of £12m. At the time of going to press, Manchester City have offered a deal reportedly worth a potential £40m. With QPR understood to be due 20% of any sell on fee – that would leave us with £32m. If he was to see out his contract and leave, we’d be due a compensation fee, as he’d only be 22 years old. That’s the same age as Danny Ings, who we’re likely going to have to pay around £8m compensation to Burnley for. Bear in mind that Danny Ings has only had 1 year of Premier League experience, is not a full international and was only at Burnley for 3 years. By the time Sterling’s current contract expires, he will have been at Liverpool for 7 years, with 5 years Premier League experience and a full England international for 3 years; not to mention him winning the 2014 Golden Boy award. This would point to Liverpool comfortably being able to command a compensation fee of £25m, perhaps more when you factor in the sizeable bids already received and the level of the clubs currently interested in him. Therefore, in theory, even taking off 20% due to QPR, that would still leave £20m and coupled with the £12m saved in wages, it balances out with what is effectively £32m on offer right now.

I can understand his conduct and attitude being questioned, but not his ability. His form may have been affected by the very public contract dispute he’s had, but I think his talent and potential are without question, just look at the elite clubs tracking him. Whether he goes on to fulfill the huge potential he has is another matter, but the talent is there.

A viewpoint widely held is that we should “get rid” because of his conduct and perceived attitude and that you shouldn’t keep an unhappy player; I’ve even heard the word toxic used in relation to the atmosphere around him, but think back to the summer of 2013 when Luis Suarez publicly wanted out. He was able to turn things around on the pitch, by giving his all and performing to an incredibly high standard that almost won us the league, but ultimately got him the dream move he always desired. So the blueprint is there for Sterling – give his all and perform to the best of his ability. It may get fans back on his side, but it’ll also attract potential suitors. If he spends 2 years sulking and not performing, he won’t get the money and the move he desires; it really is in his interests to go out and do the business on the pitch because both parties would benefit from a hugely talented player performing at a high level.

So, in terms of finance, the owners making a statement that the club will not be held to ransom by agents and most importantly, football, I think it makes sense to keep Raheem Sterling. Despite it being an unpopular opinion right now.

Dylan Baker on the case for selling him:

In the case of Raheem Sterling, there are a few things about selling him that should be taken into consideration.

First: the lad is worth the kind of money Liverpool need.  At the current time, the general consensus is that his market value is in the ballpark of £35 million.  The last public market valuation of him was done back in February at £30 million, and I can’t imagine that it’s stayed there.  Since practically no player is sold at market value, a sale this summer should range somewhere around £40-45 million.  Considering the squad needs at the club (which is for another article entirely), a sale makes sense here.  There are perks between clubs that can be added to any sale.  Things like sell-on fees, profit clauses, and usage and appearance stipulations can be included in a Sterling sale that brings Liverpool money even after the player is gone.

Second: he’s young.  Youth comes at a premium these days, especially in regards to international players.  Another player in a similar situation is Fabian Delph—international play dictates a higher transfer fee, should he leave Aston Villa.  The difference here is that Sterling is actually talented, so the factor of youth figures even higher.  All these clubs that have been reportedly linked with Sterling—Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United—aren’t only interested in the boy’s ability.  At 20, any club can make a legend out of him.  At 24, Sterling will still be worth loads of cash as a “younger” player.

Finally: he’s English.  With the home-grown allocations set upon every club, selling Sterling will add an English player to any Premier League side.  Manchester City have lost one in Milner (you’re welcome, Citizens), and United and Chelsea are looking to move on some of their younger English players.  As we’ve added Milner and Danny Ings this offseason (Lambert and Lallana last season), Liverpool have some wiggle room on the home-grown side of things.  Of the little top-level talent in the England national team, Raheem Sterling is the cream of the crop.  Much like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard during their international heydays, having the top national team player on your side is a bonus for any team.  For Liverpool, it means the ability to command a higher transfer fee.

Put all these things into a basket, and you’ve got a solid set of reasons to sell Raheem Sterling.  But wait, there’s more!

The development of Sterling’s attitude in the media and towards the club is a poison that needs to be siphoned away quickly.  Liverpool have plenty of struggles at the current time: transfer finances, the loss of Steven Gerrard, the lack of identity in the squad, etc.  There’s no need to add to that list the spat between Liverpool public relations and Sterling.  There’s no need to add to that list the seemingly unrepairable relationship between Brendan Rodgers and Sterling.  Operating under the assumption that Rodgers is staying (as it seems, currently), it would be best to let him go and reap the rewards rather than, say, waiting on a Klopp, Favre, or de Boer to come in and save the situation.  The premium for youth, the premium for talent, and the premium for his national team importance should be strong enough factors to consider selling the lad.

Take the money, take the chance to improve the squad, and take next season by the balls without Raheem Sterling.

In summary

So, there rests the case for the defence and prosecution, if you will. Although ultimate judgement will be made by Liverpool Football Club; from a fans perpective, given the arguments presented, should we keep or sell Raheem Sterling? You decide.

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  1. Personally I think It really depends on the offer that comes in. At the current offer it really doesn’t make sense to sell. As the ‘keeping him’ scenario shows, we basically break even but obviously we don’t get the money now and might not get the same revenue at the end either. Add another £10m to £50m (meaning LFC get £40m), then its a different matter. I still think its not an easy decision to ‘sell’ as any potential buyer is likely to make a profit and if he goes to a Rival, could affect our top 4 chances. We do have Ibe though – a player who is as raw as Sterling was at the same age, but has a bit more strength and power – maybe not as quick. In another year, he could develop beyond Sterling too. Its not like Sterling is irreplaceable with what we already have.
    According to one report Sterling is worth £60m now – I don’t necessarily agree, but in a year or 2, If Bale went for that much, then Sterling could well be worth more if he plays up to his ability without the contract saga…

    • I’d be interested to hear whether you think Sterling is capable of achieving that level of talent, especially considering his current feelings towards the club. Are they warranted feelings? Will they affect whether he’s willing to develop at the club into the player we all think he could become? It would be horrendous for his career to just sit out his contract and not improve, but a 20-year-old kid doesn’t necessarily possess the proper foresight to see the benefits of playing his behind off for Liverpool.

  2. Keep him and send him back to the reserves never to darken the door at Melwood again!!!
    The financial arguments for keeping him are well laid out in the article above and LFC would still be able to take the same benefits as outlined by Andy Wales even if he never plays another first team game for LFC.
    The assertion by Dylon Baker that Sterling is “worth” his current valuation is utterly ludicrous. This idea that talent (which is questionable in Sterling’s case anyway) is the defining factor in whether a player will “make-it” or not is simply not correct. The key factor is attitude. And sterling does not have the right attitude to achieve his full potential. There are numerous examples of players who have limited natural talent who go on to become top players based on their attitude to their profession. In other words, they apply themselves 100% and out perform there natural talents. This is a quality that Sterling has never displayed and as such you have to question whether or not he actually has it.
    It’s true to say that sending him back to the reserves for 2 years (or 1 year should he buy out his contract next summer) would almost destroy his career. But who’s fault would that be?!
    It would also send out a message to the rest of the players and agents in world football (including those already in LFC’s youth ranks)that LFC are not a club to mess with. The club is always bigger than the player.
    In addition to the specific case of sterling. LFC must seriously do something now to send out a message to world football that they are NOT a selling club or a Stepping-stone club. And players cannot simply pass through on their way to the top.

    • Phil,

      The notion that Sterling is “worth” is current valuation is based on a few things. First, the assertion about that he’s English. Whether we like it or not, appreciate it or not, English translates directly to “worth more.” Manchester City, for one example, are in need of 5 home-grown players to meet the minimum requirements set forth by the FA. Why fill those gaps with 5 small-scale players when a player like Raheem Sterling is available? For them, Sterling is worth more than his current valuation (as you can see by their consistent increase in bids over the course of the past month).

      Concerning his talent, which seems to be the primary issue here, it’s not necessarily the talent that’s *currently* there. It’s more about the talent that is showing more nad more promise as time goes on. Pay 45 million pounds now, have a 70 million pound player to sell off in 2-3 years. Should we consider doing the same? Of course. But considering the current needs for the club at the current time, there’s also quite the argument that 45 million pounds will allow Liverpool to assert themselves on the transfer window. Personally, I don’t have full faith that, even with that money, FSG and the club would spend it properly. But without that money, we’ll never have the opportunity to find out.

      Ludicrous? I should hopefully think not.

    • I understand your points about valuations Dylan. And your right, rightly or wrongly English players do have a premium attached to them. Your also right about Man City’s current predicament and that English players may hold an event greater value to them at the moment.
      However, where i disagree with you is your assertion that Sterling, in particular, is not worth the kinds of sums currently being suggested. And i will go one step further and say that at no point in his entire career will Sterling ever be worth those kinds of sums. And this is the reason why…People talk about his ‘potential’ all the time. The problem is, in order to unlock any potential he may have, he must possess the correct attitude and apply himself. Unfortunately, as you yourself suggested in your answer to BAMozzy, Sterling does not have the right attitude to knuckle down a “play his behind off” for any club. And it is because of this lack of the correct attitude that he will NEVER develop into a £40/50m player (never mind £70m). In my view Sterling will become no better than the likes of Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Young…bags of potential but never actually realised. Remember, the kid has next to no end product. His final ball is terrible and his goal scoring is atrocious at best. Yes he’s young and yes he ‘could’ improve those things, but he wont….because he doesn’t have the right attitude to apply himself to doing so.
      However the more important point (in my view) is that this is an opportunity for LFC to send out clear meassages to all the other players and agents in world football. I would suggest it is far more important for LFC in the long term to send out these clear messages than it is to take a quick-fix approach such as ‘get the money in to re-invest now’.
      Sterling’s made his bed…let him lie in it.

    • Phil,

      Actually, I think that’s a fair point to agree to disagree. Sterling does have a poor attitude, and his public relations are a shambles. But there have been poorer attitudes, worse public relations, and worse human beings that have reached great heights. True, we look at the boy as a money-grabbing turd that’s not worth half the price of the plane ticket it would take to send him elsewhere. But that has, in my opinion, no bearing at all on whether he’ll turn into a world class player or not.

      On your final point, I absolutely agree. He should be made to deal with the repercussions of his actions. But in football, things aren’t always so simple. Some of the most recent transfer rumors are more than likely based around the sale of Raheem Sterling for an exorbitant amount of cash (i.e. Firmino). Because the club is in a rebuilding position once again, it makes more sense to me to get rid of Sterling and bring in the kind of team player willing to stick around for years to come. A Chelsea, United, or Arsenal can make a player eat their own dung while having the depth to play equally-talented footballers. We do not.


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