John Stones has come out of the Chelsea transfer saga with his head held high. He has been portrayed as an upstanding young man with an undeniable talent on the field.
Even as bids surpassed the £30million mark very few raised an eyebrow, this despite only being valued at £3m back in January 2013 and still yet to play 50 games for the Toffees. His reputation hasn’t been affected even after submitting a transfer request following Chelsea’s third failed bid.
It appears to be one rule for John, one rule for other young English talent. Across Stanley Park, a now former Liverpool player became a target for the nation’s boo-boys. Raheem Sterling was sold to Manchester City for an initial fee of £44m, a figure that has been ridiculed up and down the country by fan and pundit alike. It appears that the rulebook on player value has gone out of the window. Historically the further up the field you play, the more you are worth. But now a midfielder with 95 games for his club, and a former Golden Boy award winner, is valued less than a promising centre-back.
Liverpool received some cheers for taking City to the cleaners and getting more than Sterling’s worth, while Everton have been applauded for holding out until Chelsea cough up the correct amount. If an inexperienced defender is now worth in excess of £40m what figure is attached to one that performs in the Champions League every year? It’s a scary thought.
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The Stones transfer request was seen as a young player displaying ambition, the Sterling refusal to sign a new Liverpool contract and handing in a request nothing other than greed. Considering a large portion of the reporting press favour Liverpool, this makes sense. It undermines Everton – as if it’s logical for any player wishing to leave – and elevates Liverpool to anyone’s equal. That only money could make a player leave Anfield, despite the fact they’ve never won a Premier League title.
The greed argument also conveniently ignores the simple economics in play. Sterling could have easily accepted Liverpool’s £75,000-a-week pay rise, inserted a buy-out clause, or even pretended he was staying only to submit a transfer request anyway. Sterling maintains it was never about money, it is about opportunity. The same sort of thought process Liverpool whispered into his ear when he was a young QPR player.
From a financial aspect the contradiction between the two cases is far too obvious. It could come down to perceived attitudes that have led to one player avoiding criticism and another left open to it. Sterling asked to be left out of Liverpool’s Asian pre-season tour and went sick for two days. Everyone had decided, without seeing a doctor’s note or at least one from Sterling’s mum, that he was faking and applying pressure to force Liverpool into accepting a move. This is plausible. It’s also understandable for a player wishing to be removed from a situation that has turned toxic. There was a sense of understanding when Louis van Gaal kept David de Gea out of the side amid a potential transfer to Real Madrid.
Sterling clearly was determined to leave and we’ll never know if, behind the scenes, it was a case of Liverpool waiting for the right bid rather than fending off City’s advances. Everton have given different signals. They haven’t flirted with the idea, so Stones – still under contract for the foreseeable future after signing an extension in 2014 – had little choice other than carrying on as normal.
Stones and Sterling appear somewhat apart on this Greed/Ambition spectrum. A player that seems further away from sympathy than Sterling, amazingly such a place does exist, is Saido Berahino. Like the aforementioned two, he placed in a transfer request. It was also rejected. The team courting him, Tottenham Hotspur, placed various bids, which were all dismissed by West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace, and none near the £30m mark. Again, making one wonder how a young striker can be so undervalued.
Where Berahino cannot be defended is the response he gave on transfer deadline day. He tweeted – because it’s always classy to send a Tweet about your professional situation – that he would never play for Jeremy Peace again. After the club collected all his teddy bears and placed them back in his pram, he did play for West Brom again. To show that he can grow and put arrogance to one side he didn’t claim this weekend to have the touch of Zidane. Oh wait, he did.
None of these three are primarily motivated by money. Of course, it will play a part, but whatever Berahino imagined would be on the table at Spurs wouldn’t have been tempting if they played in League One. All professionals want to be seen as the best and take home accolades. This intention was afforded to Stones but not Sterling, and certainly not Berahino.
If they’re greedy for anything, it’s success.