Monday 26 September 2016

John Giles: Raheem Sterling is young, he's not stupid – why would he want to stay at Liverpool?

Published 20/05/2015 | 15:57

Liverpool star Raheem Sterling
Liverpool star Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling may be young but he is clearly not stupid. He's playing hardball now and Liverpool's owners have met their match. And I have to say, they deserve what they get. They have not behaved well in this saga.

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When news of Sterling's contract problems first surfaced, I made the point that he was being bullied by Liverpool into signing a new deal.

He had the right to get the best for himself and his family and nobody should deny him that right. I thought Liverpool's behaviour at the time was dreadful but I was not surprised by it.

An attempt was made to paint Sterling as a money-grabbing, disloyal and agent dominated fool who didn't know what was best for himself by a whole slew of ex-players and Liverpool pundits. Jamie Carragher led the charge.

Even Brendan Rodgers was at it but all that did was to highlight how powerless he is in terms of Liverpool transfer policy

I note with interest that Mauricio Pochettino asked for and apparently has been given the final say in transfers in and out of White Hart Lane in the last few weeks.

Uncertainty over the future of Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling has generated a fan backlash
Uncertainty over the future of Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling has generated a fan backlash

I have to admit to being very sceptical about that and I'll be watching the market carefully this summer to see if it is true. But if Daniel Levy has seen the light, well it's never too late.

If Levy finally gets it, finally understands that if he buys a player, it is his opinion and his wishes which are being served not the manager and certainly not the team, Spurs have a great chance of shaking off the reputation they have as nearly men and sometimes not even that.

Only Liverpool and Manchester City among the top clubs are working to a model which allows third party involvement in transfer dealings. In short, meddling.

Jose Mourinho is the dictator at Stamford Bridge, Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and very definitely, Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford.

Rodgers, to be blunt, is a puppet and that is very obvious by his response to any one of the long list of crisis moments at Anfield over the last three seasons.

Read more: Patronised and pilloried but Sterling has done little wrong

As each summer transfer window passed and we looked at Liverpool's efforts and scratched our heads, Rodgers effort to retain some authority and credibility became increasingly frayed around the edges.

By trying to straddle the fence between his employers and fans, he looks lame and weak and that was never more clearly illustrated than at the weekend when the long, maudlin goodbye to Steven Gerrard reached a peak.

Gerrard is still better than most of the squad Rodgers works with and that won't change much this summer. He wanted to stay at the club but Henry and his pals decided to cut the cord.

It was a tawdry way to do it and showed the gulf between the owners and the Kop. A deal could have been done to let Gerrard wind down his career at Anfield but they counted pennies.

Well perhaps not pennies but still, it was about money and it shouldn't have been. All fans would like to see their great players and loyal servants celebrated when they retire but so often it ends badly.

The lack of sensitivity to the wishes of supporters has reached the point now where they are not even considered. Cold business decisions are taken which are neither appropriate nor sensible.

Football people revel in the past. Hall of Fame awards are a big part of every club and when someone like Gerrard leaves a club like Liverpool it should be handled with a lot more respect and dignity. I'm not talking about situations where a manager wants to move a player on. Roy Keane was clearly hurt by the way Alex Ferguson and Manchester United treated him but football is an environment which creates situations like that all the time.

Read more: Molby: Reds strong without Sterling

This was different. Gerrard was desperate to stay, Rodgers wanted him to stay and I'm pretty sure Liverpool fans would want him at Anfield next season as well.

This brings me back to Sterling and his wish to leave Liverpool. After the picture I've painted, why would he want to stay?

I think Sterling is a real player and I believe he could do his stuff in any team. I'm including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munch or any of the top Premier League clubs.

He must be worth well north of £50m and can command a salary to match. Let's be honest here. I know Liverpool fans won't want to hear this, but does Anfield offer the lad anything to look forward to next season?

No Champions League and a struggle to make the Top Four is hardly tempting for an ambitious young footballer and I would never criticise a player for wanting to better himself and win medals.

He is good to go now and if he was to be as clinical as his employers, he could argue that staying at Liverpool for another few seasons would actually do his career some harm.

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