The 20-year-old started the season in everybody’s good books, leaving last summer’s World Cup as one of the few England players with his reputation enhanced and soon ascending towards talismanic status in a Reds side desperately struggling for form.
Now, however, Sterling’s firmly in the doghouse, for refusing to extend his Anfield contract past 2017 and reportedly turning down a £100k per-week deal in the process.
To some, he’s just a money-grabbing footballer, trying to prize an even better contract out of the Mersey outfit, and to others, he’s simply an arrogant kid trying to run before he can walk.
But few have actually considered the reasons Sterling would actually want to leave Liverpool this summer – let alone discuss them publicly.
Some are certainly worth both the Liverpool star’s and your personal consideration, so with that in mind, we’ve listed FIVE.
There’s been quite the debate over where Raheem Sterling lies on the quality scale and whether he could adequately contribute at a title-challenging club like Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United.
Michael Owen’s claims that he’s a superior footballer to Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil might have overstepped the mark somewhat, but I’m fairly convinced the attacking midfielder is ready for the next level.
After all, he’s already verging upon talisman status for one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs and a key asset for England at just 20 years of age, whilst the Three Lions prodigy’s performances towards the end of last season earned him Europe’s prestigious Golden Boy award for 2014.
One need only mull over the names of some of the prior winners – Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Mario Gotze and Paul Pogba, for example – to consider what this says about Sterling’s potential, the level he could play at and his capacity to win titles.
Would he get in the starting line-up every week? Perhaps not. But extremely versatile and no stranger to goals or assists, he’s certainly good enough to command a decent amount of game-time in a title-contending squad.
It was briefly alluded to in that PR disaster of an interview with the BBC, and many feel a player so young shouldn’t be complaining about his role in the starting XI – he should be happy enough just to get picked.
But the fact of the matter is that Raheem Sterling knows he’s far too effective going forward to be wasting his time tracking opposing wide men as Liverpool’s right wing-back.
Sterling’s versatility is one of his greatest gifts but it’s plagued him at times this season, featuring in no less than seven different positions, as recorded by Whoscored.com:
And as you can see, his performances at right wing-back and right midfield are almost incomparable to when he’s fielded higher up the pitch. He’s picked up his worst ratings of the campaign in those roles; 6.05 in the former and 6.68 in the latter.
Although Brendan Rodgers – or potentially his next manager at a different club – should always take advantage of the 20 year-old’s positional flexibility, defensive roles in deep midfield are a complete waste of his obvious talents.
When players finally hang up their boots, it’s the trophies they remember most – not the campaigns they almost clinched the league, not the season they played the best football without anything to show for it. So in my opinion, it’s no surprise Raheem Sterling is considering leaving Anfield this summer.
After all, staring him square in the face during every training session is Steven Gerrard – a walking, talking, kicking manifestation of the England international’s potential future if he sticks it out with Liverpool.
The Reds skipper will be remembered for many great things; the 2005 Champions League final, the 2006 FA Cup, captaining England at Brazil 2014 and making over 100 appearances for his country. But before all that, he’ll be remembered as the greatest England international of all time not to win a domestic title.
Sterling doesn’t want to be an also-ran, a nearly-man, the Steven Gerrard of his generation; he wants his talents to be recognised by something more tangible than simply the adoration of the Kop when he retires.
And the Anfield trophy cabinet is hardly bursting with silverware at the moment. Liverpool have won just three trophies in the last decade, none of which have come under Brendan Rodgers, and qualified for the Champions League just once in the last five seasons.
If Sterling’s lust for silverware is genuine, it won’t be quenched on Merseyside.
Nobody doubts Liverpool’s ambition to become the title-winning powerhouse of the 1970s and 1980s once again, but getting there is a different matter altogether.
Having sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona last summer and now on the verge of losing captain Steven Gerrard, Liverpool need a big signing if they’re to compete with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United any time soon.
Unfortunately, however, the inability to attract top names to Anfield has become a recurring theme throughout Brendan Rodgers’ tenure.
Plenty have crosses his transfer crosshairs since his arrival in summer 2012. Henrikh Mkyhitaryan came close to joining Liverpool before signing for Borussia Dortmund instead, Willian was on the Anfield radar until he turned up in west London, Rodgers targeted then-Atletico’s Diego Costa a year prior to his Chelsea switch, whilst the Reds’ biggest miss last summer was, of course, Alexis Sanchez – now with Arsenal. The Merseysiders even considered a bid for Radamel Falcao, until realising they couldn’t come anywhere close to meeting his wage package.
There’s certainly some promising talent within Liverpool’s squad who could develop into top class players over the course of the next few years.
A few marquee signings would accelerate the process enormously, however, and rather worryingly, Rodgers has admitted this week that the club will likely continue struggling to attract big names to Anfield.
Of course, there’s no point making a song and dance about leaving Liverpool if no other club actually wants to buy you.
But there’s a host of potential Sterling suitors already lined up in the tabloids, namely Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid and even Manchester United – who haven’t directly traded a player with their northwest rivals since Phil Chisnall all the way back in 1964.
I have a feeling the England international will be of particular interest to Manchester City – even at Liverpool’s apparent valuation of £50million – for two predominant reasons.
Firstly, they have an ageing squad, the oldest in the Premier League in fact, desperately calling out for a young player who can take the reins from the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva to become a new focal point of the starting Xi; and secondly, perhaps even more importantly, they need home-grown talent in their squad more than pretty much any club in the division.
They’re constantly trapped in a cycle of short term deals for English players, the likes of Scott Sinclair, Richard Wright and Frank Lampard, but signing Sterling would bolster their home-grown quota for the best part of the next decade – perhaps even longer.
And home-grown status is becoming such an issue at the moment, especially following news FA chairman Greg Dyke wants to increase the number of HG players in every squad from eight to twelve in time for the 2016/17 season, Arsenal, Chelsea and United would be stark raving mad not to even consider a deal.