Raheem Sterling: 'It has never been about money. I would have signed for less last year'
Liverpool star insists delay in negotiations is not down to cash
Raheem Sterling claims Liverpool's failure to offer him a contract last summer contributed to him rejecting a £100,000-a-week new deal.
The Liverpool winger says the postponement of negotiations is "nothing to do with money" but he has refused to rule out a summer move and risked further alienation from the Kop by suggesting he is "flattered" by links to Saturday's opponents, Arsenal.
It is the first time that Sterling, 20, has spoken in depth about the contract impasse that has thrown his Liverpool future into doubt.
"I don't want to be perceived as the money-grabbing 20-year-old, I just want to be perceived as the kid who loves to play football," Sterling said in a BBC interview. "It's not about the money at all. It's never been about money. I talk about winning trophies throughout my career. That's all I talk about. I think they (the public) just see it as this 20-year-old boy being greedy. I just want to take time to think about what I've achieved in my career so far, where I need to go and what I need to do to get better."
Sterling said that he expected Liverpool to renew his terms at the end of last season, when he was seeking an improvement on his £35,000-a-week deal.
"If, at that point in time, I was offered a contract, I most definitely would have signed straight away, probably for far less money than being said now," he said. "I just think the timing was a bit off.
"I keep hearing I've rejected all sorts of contracts. Me, the club and my reps have spoken about it and put talks on hold until the end of the season, so it's frustrating to hear the contract situation keep going on and on.
"At the end of the season, I just want to sit down with the club and my representatives. I will definitely give guarantees when the season has finished.
"The fans get a bit frustrated with me because I'm not signing straight away. They can get on your back a little bit, but this is football and you have to accept these things.
"I would never want the fans to think bad of me, to think I just want as much money for myself. I want them to understand it's been a bit much for me this season, with everyone talking about it every minute."
The fact that Sterling gave such an interview is a sign that he and his representative, Aidy Ward, recognise they are losing the PR battle, although it is unclear if the intention was to appease Liverpool supporters or create a deeper wedge to force his exit.
Since breaking into the first team, Sterling has been protected by the club with all interviews taking place under their guidance or with their permission. These comments were made independent of a sanctioned club interview, for the first time in Sterling's career.
Liverpool are left with two options if a compromise is not reached. They can maximise the profit from Sterling's sale by inviting offers this summer, or bide their time in the knowledge his value will not have decreased much over the next 12 months.
There are two months of the campaign left and any notion of a deadline to conclude talks with Sterling is a figment of the agent's and player's imagination.
Sterling has two years left on his deal, and although the club would receive a lower transfer fee if his contract expires in 2017, he would not be a free transfer. Instead, a tribunal would decide his valuation. It would be unprecedented in English football for a 22-year-old with a World Cup and European Championship on his CV to have his valuation determined independently.
Sterling could, however, move abroad for a nominal fee in those circumstances. He said: "Everyone's dream growing up is seeing themselves in an away kit somewhere in a sunny country. But, in reality, I'm happy to be playing for Liverpool and trying to win trophies."
Sterling is losing at least £65,000-a-week from his salary. His wage would have increased from £35,000 to £100,000 had he accepted Liverpool's last offer. Over the next two years, that is around £7million he is risking if owner John W Henry refuses to sell to a Premier League rival - something he proved with Luis Suarez he does not bluff about. (© Daily Telegraph, London)