- Raheem Sterling has turned down a Liverpool deal worth £100,000-a-week
- 20-year-old gave an interview to the BBC on Wednesday over the issue
- He is being perceived as flashy and cocky but that is not the man I know
- He was naive though to describe Arsenal’s interest as ‘flattering’
- Liverpool travel to Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon
Another week, another PR disaster for Team Sterling. It is six months to the day since I expressed my dismay on this page over a story about his contract negotiations and here we are again.
There has been much focus on the fact Raheem Sterling has turned down a contract worth around £100,000 per week. He reportedly wants £150,000. He is being perceived as flashy and cocky but that is not the young man I got to know. He was quiet, humble and eager to improve.
But after that woefully misjudged interview with the BBC, four key topics have arisen and I want to examine them.
Raheem Sterling has turned down a new deal with Liverpool and put off contract talks until the summer
Sterling (centre) has confirmed that he rejected an offer of £100,000-a-week to stay at Liverpool
The 20-year-old gave an interview to the BBC on Wednesday giving his reasons for his decision
1) ‘It’s not about the money — this time last year I would have signed straight away.’
CARRAGHER ON STERLING
CLICK HERE to read why Sportsmail columnist Jamie Carragher was left seething about Raheem Sterling’s Liverpool contract situation six months ago.
So it’s Liverpool’s fault, then, for their timing ‘being off’? I’m sorry but that’s just nonsense. At this stage of last season, Sterling and Liverpool were on fire, with Brendan Rodgers calling him the ‘best young player in Europe’. No doubt that line has been used in negotiations.
Crucially, his contract still had more than three years to run. Very rarely do clubs rip up a player’s terms with that length of time on their deal – never mind one as young as Sterling – to give them a big pay rise. You don’t normally get rewarded after a few good months with that long left.
As for talking about the Champions League and winning trophies, the implication is that Liverpool are struggling to do that but, already, he has challenged for the title last season and the FA Cup this season. That’s your job as a Liverpool player: to deliver big targets and meet expectations. If you can’t do that, why should you get extra money?
After we won the Champions League in 2005, I signed a new contract but it was still incentivised. So why can’t Sterling sign a contract with incentives in? If he wins trophies and is successful, he will get the money he wants.
Sterling shakes hands with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers during training on Thursday
Sterling will be hoping to play a major part in Liverpool’s quest to win the FA Cup this season
2) ‘Arsenal’s interest is flattering; everyone’s dream is to play in a sunny country.’
First, he was desperately naive to say such a thing on the eve of such a crucial game. He is also naive, as are his advisers, if he thinks Arsenal would guarantee him a regular place every week. What Sterling’s camp are struggling to see is that Liverpool is the best place for him. Forget money for a minute. This is about football and his development. He will start the vast majority of games at Anfield. Would that be the case at Arsenal? No.
He wouldn’t play as a centre forward there ahead of Olivier Giroud or Alexis Sanchez. Being a No 10 would be out of the question, as he is not like Mesut Ozil or Santi Cazorla, which would mean a battle with Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott to start wide right.
If he went to Manchester City, he would be a squad player again. City play 4-4-2 under Manuel Pellegrini, which would mean him competing with Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri to start on the right.
As for talk about Bayern Munich (Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery) and Real Madrid (Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale), he wouldn’t get near either of those teams now.
The 20-year-old attacker (right) has described interest from Premier League rivals Arsenal as ‘flattering’
Jamie Carragher believes Sterling was naive to say that ahead of the two playing each other on Saturday
3) ‘I’ve tried to kill off the stories and change how I am perceived.’
They couldn’t have got that more wrong. Jordan Henderson, don’t forget, is in a similar contractual position but the differences between their situations is enormous. Jordan has played as well, if not better, than at any time in his career this season.
He will be out of contract in 12 months’ time but, as negotiations continue, you are not hearing anyone calling him a money-grabber. Why? Because he and his agent aren’t using the media to engineer a move or put pressure on Liverpool to improve his contract.
This, more than anything, is my biggest problem with Sterling and his agent. For a 20-year-old and his agent to be taking on Liverpool FC in the public domain is a disgrace. I have no issue about players maximising their earning potential but the agenda that is being driven from Sterling’s camp is beyond a joke.
The only way any good could have come from the BBC interview was if Sterling had said he was going to sign a new deal. Anything else, as he has discovered, was always going to create a massive problem. They cancelled talks with the club but not with the media. If you don’t want people talking about an issue, don’t talk about it yourself.
Sterling has also attracted interest Real Madrid, Bayern Munich as well as Manchester City
Jordan Henderson (right) is enjoying a fine season at Anfield – despite his contract running out in 12 months
4) ‘I’ve tried to do my best as wing back but it’s not my most comfortable position.’
When you are a young player that is what happens. You get put into different roles as it helps your understanding and experience. I spent half my career out of position; how many different roles has Steven Gerrard played?
What’s more, Sterling has actually excelled in one of the positions many felt he wasn’t suited to – as a centre forward. Rodgers has been trying to educate and improve him. It would be disappointing if he couldn’t see that.
Raheem has got great potential but he is not the first one to do this. Remember Shaun Wright-Phillips 10 years ago? He left Manchester City for Chelsea after bursting into the England team. He hardly figured at Stamford Bridge and returned to City two years later. Now he can’t get a game for QPR.
Shaun Wright-Phillips’ career has taken a backward step since he first broke into the Manchester City team
Sterling has played in various positions this season including as a striker and at wing back
Rodgers once said to me, when talking about his time at Chelsea, that young players were ‘being paid to fail’, meaning massive salaries diluted their hunger. Liverpool don’t want Sterling to lose his enthusiasm and that’s why his pay should be incentivised.
There is, however, a school of thought among some Liverpudlians that says: ‘Give him what he wants, or someone else will.’ They worry it shows a lack of ambition.
My problem with that is how does Philippe Coutinho, who has been as good as Sterling, feel being on less than half his money?
The other thing is that, if he stays, Liverpool will be in this position again in two years. If he asks for £250,000 per week then, what happens?
Liverpool and Rodgers are what Sterling needs at this stage of his career. He should realise this. And there is one change I would recommend he makes this summer – and it is not his football club.
Sterling’s contractual issues could irk his Liverpool team-mates including Philippe Coutinho (left)
Caps or medals, what’s best?
Andros Townsend had plenty to say after England’s draw against Italy, with plenty aimed at Paul Merson’s harsh comments that he should be nowhere near the squad.
After scoring his third international goal, Townsend said he hoped he had silenced his critics. He clearly loves playing for England but, given he has only scored three goals for Tottenham, has he really silenced them? Would Spurs fans agree?
It got me thinking, though. It was said by some on social media that Merson never had a good game for England but whose career would you rather have? Merson’s, with two league titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup-Winners’ Cup, or Townsend’s, with seemingly better displays for country than club?
Andros Townsend (right) scored England’s equaliser in their 1-1 friendly draw with Italy on Tuesday night
Townsend (centre) celebrates his goal with Tottenham team-mates Ryan Mason (left) and Kyle Walker
Caps or medals? Whose career would you prefer out of Steve Bruce’s (three league titles, three FA Cups, two European trophies but no England caps) and Gareth Southgate (one League Cup but 57 England caps)?
I enjoyed playing for England, but would I have swapped some of my medals for another 30 or 40 caps? Not a chance!
There were times when I would come back from England games disappointed that I hadn’t started instead of Jonathan Woodgate, Wes Brown or Ledley King, but then I’d think about it. Would I have preferred to be in their position or where I was at Liverpool? It wasn’t even a debate. The way I see it, caps are not enough – you need medals, too, like John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. If you want to be remembered as an England player rather than who you actually played for, you need to be like Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne, who achieved at the biggest tournaments. It isn’t about scoring goals in instantly forgettable friendlies.
Despite winning three league titles with Manchester United, Steve Bruce (right) was never capped by England
This week I’m looking forward to…
Seeing if Burnley can make Turf Moor bounce again.
Back in August, many people would have expected Burnley to be adrift at the foot of the table at this stage of the season but they are still in there fighting. Sean Dyche has done an excellent job and the recent win against Manchester City has given them a decent chance of defying the odds and staying in the Barclays Premier League. They face Tottenham on Saturday and it’s the type of match in which they have excelled.
They have taken points from games many thought would be comfortable defeats and they need to keep doing that. Dyche said after losing at Anfield last month that his side would be ‘relentless’ on the run-in and it will be interesting to see how they return from the international break. Turf Moor is a tremendous old stadium and the atmosphere is always good. If they beat Spurs, they will put intense pressure on Sunderland 30 minutes before the Tyne-Wear derby.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche will be hoping his side can cause another league upset vs Tottenham on Saturday
George Boyd (centre) scored the only goal of the game as Burnley beat Manchester City 1-0 last month