Raheem Sterling has been stalling on his Liverpool contract for quite a while now. It’s a saga that has run and run, and doesn’t look like ending until the summer.
His interview with the BBC is telling in many different ways.
He doesn’t want to be seen as ‘money-grabbing’, he doesn’t talk about cars and houses, and all he wants to do is win trophies.
But when you’re turning down a £100,000 a week contract, it’s hard not to see it as a little bit money-grabbing.
Let’s look at it from a pure performance point of view, though.
Sterling is only 20 years-old. He has a whole playing career in front of him, and is one of the hottest properties in the Premier League. He still has 2 years left on his £35,000 a week contract at Liverpool, who are very much a club on the up right now.
They haven’t managed to kick on in terms of league position last season, but a poor start as they dealt with the departure of Suarez and the injury to Sturridge looks to have stopped them from claiming a Champions League place for next season again. They lost to Manchester United and a defeat at Arsenal on Saturday would make Champions League qualification very difficult indeed. In fact, it would give Southampton and Tottenham below the chance to pip them to even a Europa League place.
So although Liverpool are starting to gel after buying so many players and having to replace a player of the calibre of Suarez, they look like they still have some climbing to do before they actually get to the top.
If they are to get there, Sterling will be crucial to their rise, and that’s why Liverpool are prepared to offer a 20 year-old such an astronomical wage.
But, if we take him at face value, it’s the rise to the top that Sterling is worried about.
He wants to win trophies, and that’s fair enough. Most players do, and to have played with someone like Steven Gerrard who has lifted aloft the Champions League trophy must surely inspire a young player – especially one who is tipped for such big things.
But even if he isn’t ‘money-grabbing’, when he turns down such a big contract he certainly runs the risk of being seen that way.
Liverpool, despite their poor start, look certain to be able to build on this year’s success – this calendar year – in a way that they couldn’t last time. If Sterling wants trophies, he should take the contract and help Liverpool win the FA Cup this season for a start. And if he doesn’t leave the club won’t need to replace another star this summer.
Liverpool are very much a team looking up the table, and eyeing success everywhere over the next few years. They have a young team, and one that is starting to show just how good it is right now, never mind the potential of the youngsters on display.
If Sterling really does want to win trophies, he could do a lot worse than to stay at Liverpool and help them win a few.
Put in some good performances at a club that doesn’t win trophies and you can guarantee a young player with the skill and potential of Sterling will get a move to a club that does win them, and the big contract will surely follow too. Sterling can have it all, but he needs to keep his head down and play – otherwise he will be tarred as ‘money-grabbing’, and trophies may be harder to come by than they are now.