There have been many opinions offered about Raheem Sterling and his actions that led to his exit from Liverpool. As a neutral watching this transfer it was easy to take either side in the argument, yet I have decided to take a different spin on most media coverage and look at a more rational explanation as to why he left Liverpool.
In case of the defence of Sterling we must accept that in modern football players will move clubs due to the amount of money in the game today , with the lure of money and promises laid out in front of them which combined with Sterling’s young age, and the player arguing that he needs to make as much money as possible as the career of a footballer is short lived meant the move was more than likely to take place before the antics and mind games began. Fans and media were quick to blame the agent for controlling Sterling to reject a contract however, the fans forget that without Sterling’s agent the player may have never played for Liverpool in the first place if it was not for his agent pushing for the best move (at the time) for his client.
One accusation thrown into the mix is the fee for his services and wages which he has ‘demanded’. Sterling did not set the price himself. Liverpool valued him at £50 million (likely set as QPR received 20% of the fee so had to set a high price) seen by many as obscene considering he had a year to go on his contract and looking into stats matched with the fact he scored only 9 goals and assisted 2 last season. Even more disturbingly back in 2001 Zidane was ‘cheaper’ when he moved to Real Madrid. However, the ‘English premium’ clubs pay is absurd, and for a price tag of £50 million one would expect Sterling to be the next ‘big thing’, which up until now he has not produced performances to suggest that. Yet we must remember that the transfer fee and wages are not set by the player, if Manchester City did not want to pay the fee, or pay his wages they would have pulled out of the deal, and the money side of this deal is a completely separate debate.
Based on Liverpool’s 2014/2015 season campaign alone could have forced any player to leave, having spent heavily in the transfer market to replace a goal machine was hard and injuries could be blamed for a 6th placed finish. However, even by Liverpool’s standards that is not good enough considering Brendan Rodgers spent over £100 million on new players, and to finish 6th, knocked out in a relatively easy champions league group and beaten by Aston Villa in the semi final of the FA cup cannot be seen as progress. The argument that players need to settle is valid, however, from a player who enjoyed a successful year only a year ago could have became frustrated and not bought into the vision that Brendan Rodgers has for the club. Thus decided to leave to somewhere, where he feels his ambitions can be fulfilled.
To support this potential notion we can look at the direction that Liverpool could be heading in. Having sold Suarez to Barcelona the previous year, Sterling may have decided that the season on 2013/2014 was Liverpool’s best chance to win the premier league, and with the sale of their best player could have left, however, stayed to see if Liverpool could improve on an impressive second place finish. Furthermore, in recent years Liverpool have sold multiple world class players including Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano leading to the argument that they have turned into a ‘selling club’ a label also given to Arsenal in recent years. Liverpool spent the money they received for their prized asset and after a disappointing campaign, Sterling could feel that he has taken Liverpool as far as he personally can.
Sterling also claims he left Liverpool to win trophies, which, judging by Liverpool’s recent trophy haul looks to be a supported notion that he was unlikely to achieve this at Anfield, with one trophy since 2006, being a Carling cup triumph against Cardiff City in 2012. From a fans stance it is seen as betrayal when a player of quality leaves your club as you believe they can bring success, but we must remember players have ambitions too. I am not comparing Sterling to Thierry Henry, however, he left Arsenal in pursuit to win the Champions League, which he did with Barcelona, yet one could argue that he gave the majority of his career to Arsenal and left under less hostile circumstances.
Why not take a different spin on the Sterling saga, the reports in the press that he refused to train, rejected contracts, and wanted to force through a move are hard to prove is a notion to easily ignore. How do we know what goes on behind closed doors? The cliché of smoke and mirrors comes to mind. What if Sterling observed how club legend Steven Gerrard was treated by the club he dedicated seventeen years to. In those years, he captained the team to a famous Champions League and FA cup triumph, and won every domestic trophy bar the Premier League. Yet, in the final year of his contract was slowly ousted from the team and demoted to a bit part role, and from what I have read would have signed a new contract in a heartbeat. His recent move to LA Galaxy was not motivated through choice, he was dropped by the club he loved. You could argue that Sterling thought, ‘do I want to end up like that?’. Dedicating all those years and not only missing out on the opportunity to win many more trophies (which Gerrard did, and rejected) only to be, in the end losing your final game 6-1 v Stoke City away (which is no disrespect to Stoke) and your long affiliation with the club being viewed, by some as a failure due to not winning the league.
In conclusion it is easy to jump on the bandwagon and say he is motivated by money, but if you look at the opposing argument it is also justifiable as to why Raheem Sterling left Liverpool. Most fans will look on his actions negatively as it is hard when a big player leaves to pastures new, yet there has been different, if not worse cases, look no further than Fabian Delph. With player power rife in todays game it is near impossible to keep a player when he wants to leave, the only negative in this story is how the whole situation has been handled from all parties involved. We should now let Sterling do his talking on the pitch and can only assess if he made the right choice at the end of his career.