OpinionPaul McGrath

Sterling value plummets in this exchange

Paul McGrathBy Paul McGrath
Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling

I can’t see any way that Raheem Sterling has a long-term future at Liverpool.

The comments by his agent Aidy Ward last week, that the young attacker wouldn’t stay at the club for £900,000 a week, were just the final straw.

Supporters of most football clubs might not see that amount of money in 30 years of their lives, never mind a week. What must any football fan have thought when he saw it.

Ward has since denied saying it and he is talking about suing the paper that printed those remarks, but the cat is out of the sack now, as Trap might have put it.

It’s clear that Sterling sees that he can earn more money, and win more medals, at a club other than Liverpool. And that will cut the Kop to the quick.

Liverpool is a great club, one of Europe’s giants. But it seems that the lad and his advisers see this institution as some kind of feeder club for Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.

There are two points to be made about that.

First, which of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski is Sterling going to beat out of the Bayern first-team?

And secondly is he going to get a game at Real Madrid ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema or Toni Kroos? 

It would be harder again to force his way into the Madrid team if Gareth Bale stays as a Galactico.

Sterling is a fine prospect, but no more than that - a young player of pace and talent.

At 20, he has at least three years of improvement ahead of him before he can be ranked as anything approaching world-class player.

Secondly why on earth would any big continental club pay the sort of money which would persuade Liverpool to part with their asset, when they already have top-class talent on their playing staffs?

You’d be paying £50million for the promise of a great player, not the reality of a great one now.

And if Barcelona got Luis Suarez for £75million, is Sterling worth £50million? Not on your life.

There’s also the question of the lad’s own finances.

Had he signed the contract Liverpool offered him last October, he’d now have a million pounds more than he has actually received.

Now the lad could break a leg or do his cruciate today, and his career might never recover.

In one way, I don’t blame him for trying to earn as much money as he can when he can.

But you must always do a delicate balancing act in contract negotiations, to get it right for both your career and your bank account.

To me, Sterling has fallen off that tightrope.

Now he’s in a situation where there’s every chance Liverpool will hold him to his current contract for the next two years, which will cost him £2.5million more in lost wages.

And since Sterling will still not be 23 at that point, he won’t be a free agent at the end of his contract. 

Whoever wants to buy him off Liverpool then will still have to pay a substantial fee – something that will weaken Sterling’s hand when it comes to negotiating his wages.

Finally there is the issue that Liverpool will not sell their player to a domestic rival.

That has always been the way that the top clubs in England have gone about their business and Liverpool have a strong track record in this regard. 

Two years ago, they would not part with Suarez to anyone in the Premier League, and they did not lose his servies until the money was right, from their point of view.

So, between his own utterances and that of his agent, Sterling is not is a strong position.

If he didn’t know that, he sure learned it last week when he was heckled by fans at the Liverpool Player of the Year awards.

It’s sad to see a player given grief by the supporters of his own club. 

But you have say Sterling and his advisers, in their haste to sign a big deal, have walked themselves into this complete mess.

Picking their way out of it may not be easy.