Raheem Sterling was targeted by irate Liverpool supporters as he was dropped from his side's final-day embarrassment.
Fans abused the 20-year-old as he made his exit to the players' tunnel before kick-off having warmed up with the substitutes. He had been left out following the controversies of midweek, when it was revealed he has told Liverpool he wants to leave.
His omission was overshadowed as Liverpool's shocking display diverted attention from the contract wrangle. "With Raheem I felt there has been a lot going on over the past number of weeks," said manager Brendan Rodgers.
"I just felt there were other players mentally in a better position to play in the game. It was as simple as that."
It remains to be seen if Sterling has now made his last appearance for Liverpool, with Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all preparing summer bids.
Liverpool will listen to offers of around £50m for Sterling, and the first moves from Champions League clubs are now anticipated.
A meeting between Sterling's agent Aidy Ward and Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre was postponed last Friday, but the revelations and quotes from the representative have soured relations.
Meanwhile, Mark Hughes was reflected on another strong season after guiding Stoke City to back-to-back top-10 finishes in the Premier League for the first time.
"We couldn't have asked for a better finish to a really great season," he said.
"The level of performance in that first 45 minutes was exceptional and I don't think it reflects badly on Liverpool. I think most teams would have struggled to cope with the quality and intensity of our play.
"It is a great performance against a very good team with great individual talents, and we have been able to get the level of performance that I think a lot of people sensed we were capable of.
"Everything came together and we showed what a good side we are."
Substitute Peter Crouch rounded off the scoring late on after Steven Gerrard, on his 710th and last appearance for the club, scored a goal which brought the whole of the Britannia Stadium to its feet.
"I am sure Steven wasn't anticipating the manner of that being his last performance, but credit to him he was trying to drive his team on and it was great he got that reception from our supporters when he scored," said Hughes. "It is only right and proper we recognise the impact he has had in English football and at his club as well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)