Saturday 1 October 2016

Reds cancel talks as Sterling crisis deepens

Chris Bascome

Published 22/05/2015 | 02:30

Raheem Sterling has two years left to run on his Liverpool contract
Raheem Sterling has two years left to run on his Liverpool contract

A meeting to discuss the future of Liverpool contract rebel Raheem Sterling was postponed following an extraordinary public rant by the England winger's agent.

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Aidy Ward, Sterling's representative, was due on Merseyside today having called for the revival of negotiations with Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre and manager Brendan Rodgers.

Instead, Liverpool decided to cancel the talks following the publication of an interview in the 'London Evening Standard', in which Ward made it known what he intended to say to Anfield officials. It has left the relationship between Ward and Liverpool in tatters. "I don't care about the PR of the club and the club situation. I don't care," Ward was quoted. "He is definitely not signing. He's not signing for £700, £800, £900 thousand a week. He is not signing.

"My job is to make sure I do the best with them (my clients). If people say I am bad at my job, or they are badly advised, it does not matter."

Upon reading that, and having also noted the remarks of those close to the agent earlier in the week communicating a similar message, Liverpool decided there was little point proceeding with the planned talks.

It remains to be seen when the next meeting will take place given the escalation in tensions between both parties.

Intention

It was Ward who initiated the scheduled talks, but no sooner was the date in the diary than it became clear the intention was to drive a further wedge between Sterling and the club.

Until Tuesday, Liverpool had no preconceptions about his intentions, aware of Sterling's unrest but hopeful he would eventually agree to the deal worth £100,000 a week that was offered earlier this season.

Instead, Ward has made it known he is in the process of engineering a transfer, no matter what it takes. The entrenched positions offer little prospect of a swift resolution.

In the meantime, several clubs are letting their interest in Sterling be known, including Manchester United - who have contacted Liverpool - Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

"I am not worried. Worried is making a decision not knowing what is going to happen," Ward was also quoted as saying in the contentious interview.

"Every Premier League club will make a bid for him."

Liverpool want at least £50m for Sterling, a fee that may be beyond his suitors, who are also preparing an eye-watering £200,000-a-week salary. Sterling currently earns £35,000 on a contract that runs until 2017.

Sterling's desire to leave has prompted criticism from supporters, former Liverpool players and numerous ex-professionals.

He also has his sympathisers, but it is the manner in which the dispute is being handled rather than the player's ambitions that has caused most condemnation from day one.

Former Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher criticised Sterling and his agent's conduct since revelations surrounding his wage demands entered the public domain.

He reasserted those concerns in his role as a television pundit on Monday evening. That sparked a furious response from Ward.

"Carragher is a k***. Everybody knows it," he said. "Any of the criticism from current pundits or ex-Liverpool players - none of them things matter to me. It is not relevant."

Liverpool must now decide if Sterling is in the right frame of mind to face Stoke City on Sunday, when he is sure to be subject to further criticism from Liverpool fans.

Rodgers will have to address that question at his weekly press conference this morning, the Sterling issue one of the many piling on his desk in what is rapidly becoming a dysfunctional end to the season.

Liverpool are fifth and in desperate need of victory to ensure they qualify directly into the Europa League, avoiding one, or even a couple of qualifying rounds.

Rodgers also faces the pending issue of a season review which will be critical to establishing how he repairs the damage of the last eight months of the season.

In many ways, that is far more significant than Sterling's future as it has broader consequences for the direction of the club. The distraction of the last 72 hours has shifted attention from how important the final game - and Rodgers' meeting with Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon - is.

Liverpool at least had some good news yesterday when Jordon Ibe signed his new five-year contract.

"Liverpool are a great club and I like the philosophy here," said Ibe. "I'm enjoying it - I've just been brought into the first team and I've enjoyed the games I've played in.

"Hopefully I can just keep doing well at the club. I just want to take that into pre-season and then next season, continuing with how it's been since I've been back here."

Defender Jon Flanagan, who is injured, has also signed for another year as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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