Any real reason to be concerned at Liverpool?

Liverpool winger Raheem SterlingLiverpool FC winger Raheem Sterling has quickly set about making himself an integral part of Brendan Rodgers’ plans this season, but with reports concerning a contractual wrangle between the two parties refusing to go away, is there any reason for the supporters to be worried about his long-term future and commitment to the cause?

Firstly, let’s just state that Sterling only becomes applicable for a professional contract once he turns 18 years of age. His 18th birthday was on the 8th December. That’s just three days ago. Three days! Yes, you are reading that correctly. Not three months, or even three weeks, but three days, yet judging by the faux hysterics of the media, you’d suspect that he was ready to quit Anfield at a moment’s notice. Is this just little more than trying to stir up trouble where none exists? Driving a wedge and fabricating a story in the pursuit of easy copy?

It was previously hoped that the club would be able and ready to announce a new long-term deal for the youngster on the day of his 18th birthday, but there have been reports over a significant divide between the player’s representatives and Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director and Rodgers has looked as if he has growing increasingly weary at tiresome questions regarding Sterling’s future.

The 39-year-old manager told the Daily Telegraph last week: “I don’t want the club or the kid being affected by over-the-odds demands. I think there’s a value I see in a young player that hasn’t achieved anything. All the figures that get bandied about for kids these days can destroy them.

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“I’m in the business of trying to help nurture these kids, and money distorts the reality. It’s just one of these things that will get done. I’m confident that it will do. There’s still 18 months left [on his current deal]. He’s a young kid and we just want to make sure that everything’s right for him to be nurtured.

“With young players contracts get handed out left, right and centre to a kid who’s not done anything, getting a four-year deal on decent money, and then clubs wonder why in two or three years it’s gone wrong. It’s gone wrong because you’ve taken away his hunger.

“There’s good conversations so there’s no worry or concern. I’m comfortable with it. The club is working on it very well; Ian Ayre’s doing a good job. I’ve spoken to the agent; there’s no problem. It will be resolved.”

The newly-capped England international is believed to be on a wage in the region of £2,000 per week at the moment, with the Daily Mail reporting back in November that Sterling was set to turn down an offer nearer the £20,000 per week mark due to his first-team status, and that the player believed he was worth nearer £50,000-a-week.

This prompted a stinging rebuke from the player on Twitter, with the tweet then hastily deleted shortly afterwards, stating: “morning tweeps I’ve just woken up to this rubbish I can assure you I’ve not asked for that silly amount we’re waiting till I’m 18 2 sign.”

Logically, while Sterling’s stock is understandably higher, therefore warranting a bumper deal to keep him at the club, it just seems like an attempt to stir up trouble where none exists. He is playing regular top flight football for a big club under a manager who believes in him. Would he have broken through in quite such a dramatic fashion at any other side in the top ten this season? Not a chance, and the club’s emphasis on youth development couldn’t have come at a better time for him.

According to the press, negotiation is a dead art these days, and if matters aren’t concluded on a timetable that they see fit as acceptable, then reports will always surface aimed at claiming the player in question is greedy, simply because the general public at large like to believe footballers are greedy. If people stopped reading it, they’d stop printing it. It really is that simple.

Rodgers has admitted that he’s taken a more ‘hands-on’ approach with Sterling and been involved in his contractual demands, but surely that’s simply a sign that he’s seen as an important player and that the club are willing to keep him happy, but mindful of giving him too much, too soon. Somehow this has been misconstrued as a negative and a sign that there’s an issue there.

A similar story surfaced back in July involving Danny Welbeck. It was widely reported that the England international, after a similar rise from nowhere to becoming a pivotal player for his club, then his country, had turned down a deal worth £16k-a-week, supposedly wanting £60k-a-week. By the 14th August he had agreed a new deal and by the 22nd August he had signed a new four-year contract to prolong his stay at Manchester United. At no point was it even remotely likely that Welbeck would leave Old Trafford, and given how darn lovely he comes across as in interviews, nor is it entirely believable that he was greedy during negotiations.

Rodgers has gone to great lengths to ensure that Sterling does not get carried away by all the talk of a bumper new deal, rather understandably stating that the youngster still has plenty to prove despite his considerable potential. He wants to keep him hungry rather than motivated by money or the lure of more of it at either Manchester City or Chelsea. Nevertheless, the winger has been linked with both of those clubs in yet another example of 2+2=5 journalism. Here’s the caveman logic to that one – rich club have lots of money, young player wants lots of money, put them both together. It’s farcical.

The only time we have actually heard from the player in question over the matter was when he let his emotions get the better of him with a Twitter outburst in response to a report aimed at making him look greedy. Creating news where none exists is almost an art form now it seems, and with concerns to this supposed contractual stalemate, the media have been dealt three of four rather easy stories built upon quotes displaying relatively few issues.

Sterling will sign his new deal in due course and continue his footballing education at Anfield for quite a few years left to come. There is nothing shocking in that at all, or even very interesting, but then again, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?