So the narrative for the big transfer saga of the summer has already been written. For the second year running, it is Liverpool at the centre of it. It’s not fun being a supporter of a club at the centre of these tiresome transfer soap operas, take it from a Spurs fan. For three years our best player was in the eye of the media storm; two of those years it was Luka Modrić and the other of course was Gareth Bale. It is this experience that makes me feel sorry for Liverpool fans. Okay, that’s not true, but I do have some advice that will most likely bring me much abuse from the Liverpool supporters reading this: keep Raheem Sterling.
Sterling is just about the most unpopular man in the red half of Merseyside right now, his reception at the Liverpool awards dinner and at the Britannia Stadium can vouch for that. This should not have an impact on his future though. Liverpool fans may hate Sterling right now and have an absolute right to with some of his recent behaviour. It would also be fair if they didn’t want someone with his attitude playing with the liver bird upon his chest again. However, if Liverpool really want to make progress next season and get back to the form that had them challenging for the title just a year ago, Sterling should stay.
Much else needs to happen for Liverpool’s revival to happen of course; replacing Steven Gerrard is a monumental task and they still haven’t filled the void left by Luis Suárez. Nothing is certain in football, but it is likely that Liverpool will stage a much bigger attack on the top four and beyond next season if they hold onto their young player of the year. Hanging on for one more year could make the difference for Liverpool in the next five.
In the summer of 2011, the first of the Modrić transfer sagas began, with the player stating in interviews his desire to move from White Hart Lane to the riches of Stamford Bridge. If you don’t remember the attitude of Tottenham fans towards the Croatian midfielder at the time, it’s easy to guess what the general mood was. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy showed something he rarely shows in the face of a large sum of money – steely resolve. He refused to sell to a rival and despite Modrić’s sulking and refusal to train, when Harry Redknapp put him back in the team, he once again sparked. His return and brilliant form quickly had Spurs fans welcoming him back into their arms as the team surged towards a Champions League place.
Of course, things ended in tears that season after the dismissal of England manager Fabio Capello and Chelsea’s miracle in Munich. Modrić was then allowed to flee to the sunny city of Madrid, where he has proven to be one of the very best in his position. The point is, holding onto a star player, no matter how much they may throw their toys out of the pram, can be the difference between glory and mediocrity; if it wasn’t for an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances, Spurs could be in a very different place right now than fighting for the Europa League places. Tottenham could have also got one more season out of Gareth Bale, but cashed in and it’s all gone downhill since. Liverpool can’t afford to make the same mistake.
Brendan Rodgers and his team have already been burnt by the decision to let Suárez follow Modrić and Bale to Spain, they mustn’t let the same happen with Sterling. If they can hold onto him for an extra season, he could have the same impact Modrić had in 2011/12 and if they add wise investment, Anfield may once again see progress and Champions League football. It’s a tricky decision of course, nobody wants a player that doesn’t want to play for your club. But the top players, like Modrić, will soon get over the disappointment of not getting their £200,000 a week at the Bernabéu or Stamford Bridge and get back to business as soon as Jim White ‘slams’ shut the transfer window on deadline day.
The impact Sterling will make if he stays is only heightened by what may happen if he goes. Liverpool have already suffered the same fate as Tottenham in wasting money from the sale of their best player. There’s no doubt the Suárez money has been poorly used. Some of the signings may yet still bare fruit, but just like Spurs after Bale, Liverpool have found out one great player can’t be replaced with several good or less than good ones. They must not repeat the mistake this summer. Some may protest that Jordon Ibe is ready to fill Sterling’s boots, but one more season to allow Sterling to help push Liverpool on and for Ibe to develop further, possibly into something special, will harm no one, other than opposition defenders.
From the outside, Sterling’s stance towards Liverpool is as perplexing as it must be infuriating for those who stand on the Kop. He is still only 20, yet seems to believe he must move now or his career will stagnate. There must be some interesting words in his ear from his agent and other advisors that aren’t really looking out for him. Regardless, Sterling is not good enough for Real Madrid or Barcelona, he is not above Liverpool’s level.
He is the stand-out player at Anfield alongside Phillipe Coutinho, especially with the departure of Gerrard. In Rodgers, he has a manager that must be tearing his hair out at Sterling’s desire to leave, but also has unwavering trust in the England forward’s talent. Maybe in a few years, if he continues his upward trajectory in the game, Sterling will be ready for the Bernabéu or Camp Nou. Right now, he is on the perfect stage to develop his talent.
However strange Sterling’s desire to leave is and however persistent his arguments may come, Liverpool Football Club must not move. He still has 2 years on his contract and so they can afford to say no to the player, his agent and interested parties. If he’s really that good, the sharks will still be swimming around come next summer. Until then, Liverpool must stand strong, ride the next few months of the media storm and cling on tight to their prize asset.
Latest posts by James Harris (see all)
- Why Sterling must stay – unwelcome advice from a Spurs fan - May 27, 2015