The saga surrounding Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling continues to rumble on and we are still no closer to finding out where the England youngster will be playing his football next season.
Having refused the clubs latest offer; a £100,000-a-week contract, numerous reports have linked Sterling to a host of Premier League rivals with his mind apparently not focused on money but the chance to win trophies.
Despite a Wembley semi-final against Aston Villa in the pipeline, two dismal displays against Manchester United and Arsenal have seriously dented Liverpool’s hopes of ensuring Champions League qualification once more, and failure to do sure could leave them in serious danger of losing one of the star players.
If the 20-year old feels he wants to Liverpool in order to play Champions League football; realistically this leaves him with four options. Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. But is he actually good enough at present to warrant a place in any of their starting line ups were he to move this summer? Phil Neville isn’t so sure and he makes a valid point.
The Match of the Day pundit feels the Liverpool star is at the best club in order to continue his development and would struggle to hold down a position in another of the league’s big clubs. And you’d have to agree.
It’s difficult to see him getting in the Chelsea side first of all. Jose Mourinho has a number of players vying for a similar role to Sterling, and with the likes of Willian, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Juan Cuadrado and perhaps even a resurgent Mohamed Salah from next season all at his disposal, it’s unlikely he would make the first 11 at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal are another side who have been heavily linked with the youngster but as they showed in their thrashing of Liverpool just last weekend, they too are not short of firepower. Olivier Giroud has clearly shown his worth up front for the Gunners in the last few weeks and he’s not going to replace Alexis Sanchez in the side. That doesn’t leave much room for Sterling and it’s difficult to see him replacing all of Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott or Santi Carzola on his present form. However the Emirates does give him a more realistic chance of breaking into the first team than Chelsea.
And then you have the two Manchester clubs. Could you make a case for him getting into the United side? Maybe, but once again it’s no guarantee. While Wayne Rooney has cemented himself as the team’s main striker, the performances of Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young have all impressed Louis van Gaal. And with Angel Di Maria hungry to prove himself at Old Trafford again it could be hard to accommodate Sterling on a weekly basis.
That leaves him with City, which you could argue offer his best chance of regular football were he to leave. Having struggled for form in recent weeks they look set to spend big this summer, and have made a top English signing one of their priorities. While Sergio Aguero and David Silva are shoe ins, the rest of their forward positions look well up for grabs with question marks surrounding the future and individual performances of a number of their star names. Whether he is good enough to hold down a regular starting position in the side come next season is debatable, but on current form he would certainly have a chance.
City would be able to offer him Champions League football and have all the financial muscle to strengthen their team in the summer, something that Liverpool can’t offer. They would certainly have no problem in meeting his wage demands either, and so they could be his best bet if he really wants to leave.
Whether Sterling is a Liverpool player come the start of next season remains to be seen, but he seriously has an important decision to make over the next few months. Unquestionably a talented player that can go right to the very top, he wouldn’t be making the worst decision were he to stay at Liverpool for the next couple of seasons. The Reds can guarantee him a regular first team spot in order to continue his development which could see him mature and gain a move elsewhere when is he better equipped to do so.
In return Liverpool may need to offer him the kind of money that Mario Balotelli is on in order to show they are serious about keeping Sterling at the club, as well as proving that they can strengthen significantly to ensure a better chance of Champions League qualification. He may not be quite at the level to see him start regularly for the league’s top sides, but there’s no doubt he will be very soon and if Liverpool can’t keep hold of him there will be plenty of teams waiting to take him of their hands.