Following a great run for the title during the 2013-14 season, many were curious of how Liverpool would respond in the following season. The biggest issue was replacing the goals and top quality performances of the brilliant Luis Suarez. The club would need two things in order to continue their rise in stature: the performance of the replacements bought through the sale of Suarez and the stepping up of the preexisting members.
Unfortunately, barring Emre Can and perhaps Alberto Moreno, the new players have not been able to justify their transfer fees – with Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovern being two of the bigger targets. So how have the older members fared? Fortunately, many of them have stepped their game up, shining a bright light in an otherwise disappointing season. Simon Mignolet, Mamadou Sakho, and Joe Allen have been playing with great form – having struggled at some stage in their Liverpool careers, while Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho have always given the Kop quality performances. However, Liverpool’s most important player, by no doubt is Raheem Sterling.
Born in Jamaica, Sterling moved to England to prolong his football career, signing a youth contract with Queens Park Rangers. Liverpool soon noticed Sterling’s great potential, and forked out 600,000 pounds, which could rise to 5 million based on performances, for the 15 year old. A great sum of money to be spent on a player only based on potential, but how that gamble paid off. Sterling continued his rapid rise in football with Liverpool. He broke into the first team during the 2012-2013 season, after a handful of substitute appearances, and has not looked back since. He has been that local star that the club developed on their own, a star worthy of a place in the first team sheet. Moreover, following the departure of Suarez and the injury problems of Daniel Sturridge, Sterling has become the new face of Liverpool’s attack line, a player that simply cannot be dropped for the important games. His great development is also reflected with his role with the England squad: steady progress with every age competition before establishing himself as a starter for the first team.
As aforementioned, Sterling has become the first name on the sheet for Liverpool, and he has become the player that most of their offense goes through. The current holder of the European Golden Boy – which is given to the best under-21 player in Europe – has also created the most chances across Europe’s top 5 leagues among under-21 players as well this season. Not only do statistics show that he ranked one of the greatest young players in the world, they also show that Liverpool cannot risk dropping him. Sterling leads the team in the league with goals, shots on target, assists, chances created, and successful take-ons. All this achieved despite taking on a myriad of roles; he has played as a wing-back, a No. 10, a wide-player, and an orthodox center-forward without any complaints as he knows that it is all for the benefit of the club. One can safely say that Liverpool won’t even be where they’re at currently without the performances of Sterling.
With his contract ending during the summer transfer window of 2016, Liverpool hope to tie him down – not necessarily to sell him at a more expensive price, but to actually have him continue to play at the club. The club first offered to double his salary to around 70,000 pounds a week, which was quickly dismissed by Sterling and his agents. People were fairly accepting of Sterling’s behavior up to this point, as many of them recognize his importance of the club and know that he is worthy of a salary that breaks the big 100,000 pound mark. However, with rumors that Sterling will only consider a contract around 180,000 pounds a week, comments have become harsher towards the young England international.
The main complaint towards Sterling is that he is acting too greedy, despite his good performances for the club. Criticizers claims that he has just started to put in good performances and doesn’t yet deserve a big wealthy contract. I, for one, believe that Sterling rightfully deserves what he’s asking for.
First of all, it’s the number 180,000 pounds per week that is freaking all the fans out. However, that high number is a number presented by Sterling’s agents, not the player himself. This means that there is room for negotiation, and that it isn’t the number that they are realistically looking Liverpool to pay the player. It is only as absurd as Liverpool’s initial offer of paying Sterling a ridiculously low 70,000. I predict the final contract that Sterling wants to receive will be around the low 100,000s, which really isn’t that higher than the flat out 100,000 that Liverpool fans were content of paying for their young star.
Moreover, fans are only concerned with splashing that amount of money simply because of Sterling’s young age. If there were a player as important as Sterling, but of an older age, the club would renew his contract with much less opposition. Yes, it is still early in Sterling’s career, but all the statistics show that Sterling rightfully deserves a great pay raise. Disregarding his age, every club should try their hardest to keep hold of their most important player, which for Liverpool’s case at the moment is Sterling. I am sure that fans would have been overjoyed to extend Suarez’s contract last year, even if it mean that they had to pay more money for him. The fact that Sterling’s career has just started shouldn’t go against him getting a new contract, it rather should make a stronger case for him. He isn’t only a player for the present, but is a player for the far far future as well.
Lastly, if Liverpool hope to once again be considered one of the elite clubs, they have to be willing to take that extra step to separate themselves from other top half clubs. If they continue to be reluctant with their money, they might have a more difficult time of getting back to the top. Last year marked a recent high for the club as they finished second in the league, and they must take this momentum somewhere before it dies away. They need to prove that they are still able to hold on to top quality players, and having Sterling stay at the club for at least the next few years is the perfect way to show that.
This entire issue also points at Liverpool’s poor strategies with contract renewals. Following the recent change of management, it seems like Liverpool need to find a different way of dealing with contracts. Club legend Steven Gerrard has openly stated that he would have stayed at the club if they had offered him a contract a year before his decision to move to the MLS, a statement shared by Sterling himself. Only if the club had acted earlier to keep their important players at the club, they might have succeeded without any of these issues. The same goes to vice-captain Henderson, who has yet to commit to a long-term contract with the club. Possible suitors such as Chelsea have recognized Liverpool’s slow process of renewing contracts and are lurking around, hoping to snatch Henderson right below their noses.
Sterling is one of the best at the club, one of the best among his age group, with a bright future and undeniable footballing talent. There is simply no reason for Liverpool not to try everything they can do to keep him at the club. This should be one of their top priorities at the moment, and not dealing with the situation might alienate Sterling from the club even more. The club needs to act boldly and quickly, and the right answer is to convince Sterling to stay at the club no matter what.
Photo Credit: Kamran Hussein – Wikipedia user