Raheem Sterling: The Grass Is Not Always Greener On The Other Side
The Summer Transfer Window has yet to open, and already many deals have been completed and speculated. It is one of the busiest and most hectic periods in the football calendar, as teams scramble to get their hands on the best available talent. And no club has seen quite as much attention as Liverpool.
The Red half of Merseyside have wasted little time canvassing new players and acquiring them fast. They have already bolstered their ranks with the signings of James Milner, Danny Ings and Adam Bogdan on free transfers. However, these positive purchases are being overshadowed by a potential move in the other direction that is looking to be the most protracted deal of the whole window.
This is of course referring to the Raheem Sterling saga. The 20-year-old England international burst onto the scene at Liverpool in 2012, with his electric pace terrifying full backs. Despite a rough time in his first season, his dribbling and speed have really come into its own in the past two seasons.
Sterling has twice been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award due to his ability to push defenders and change games for the better for Liverpool. In those seasons he provided 16 goals and 15 assists in the Premier League. There is no doubting that given direction and more experience, he could fulfil his potential and become one of the best English talents of recent memory.
Yet, Sterling clearly does not see Liverpool as the place to continue that development. Back in April, he reportedly refused a new contract of £100,000 a week with his current club, and rumours are circulating about his determination to force a move away from Anfield. This has led him being linked to a variety of new destinations, including Manchester City, Arsenal and Real Madrid.
Of these, City have been the most obvious in their pursuit, having already seen two bids knocked back by Liverpool, the most recent being around £40 million. The Reds are holding out for closer to £50 million, which is an astonishing amount of money for a player so young. Unquestionably, Sterling has a great amount of potential and ability, but does he really merit such an excessive price tag?
The history of Premier League transfers is littered with expensive youngsters that have not reached their potential. Consider Andy Carroll’s ill-fated stint at Liverpool, or Wilfried Zaha being unable to make any sort of impression at Manchester United. That clearly does not mean that Sterling would be certain to join their ranks should he move, but he is still far from the finished article as a player.
Whilst his remarkable speed terrifies defences, Sterling still is not entirely convincing as an attacking threat, both with regards to his final pass and finishing. For a talent supposedly worth £50 million, a return of less than ten goals or assists per season is just not good enough. Of course Liverpool did not have the most successful campaign overall, but Sterling should have been a shining light pushing them towards greatness.
Genuinely, I believe it is far too soon for Sterling to secure a move away from Anfield. Whether that means he signs a new contract at Liverpool is another question, as he still has two years remaining and at that expiration date he will be far more suited to seek pastures new. In his current surroundings Sterling is guaranteed first-team football, a passionate fan base and European experience.
Liverpool as a club have a history that is unmatched by virtually all others in England. Although recent years have been somewhat more mixed, they could easily find themselves challenging for silverware next season because you never really know with them. The worry for Sterling is that a switch to Manchester City would both limit his playing time and add greater pressure onto these valuable years of development.
Could Sterling be an excellent addition for City? Certainly. His ability should not be devalued as he has an exciting future in front of him. But, this club in particular is notorious for bringing in new expensive players every window that can usurp a role. Sterling would not be guaranteed a starting spot, and could end up following a similar trajectory of Scott Sinclair or Jack Rodwell as young talent with clear potential stunted by a move to the summit too soon.
Sterling needs games to help make him the finished article, and if he can get that at Manchester City then more power to him. However, it is a guarantee at Liverpool, and that is not exactly a bad club to be a main attraction in. City is a far more fickle structure, and any player, no matter the price tag, can find themselves out in the cold when the next hot transfer target is being located.
Considering Sterling’s other options does not make for any better predicting. Arsenal might be attracted by Sterling’s ability, but he plays in a position that the club is well catered for. With Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain already established with the Gunners, Sterling would be an expensive acquisition scrambling for a spot against these names.
As for Real Madrid, that is a club that has never been able to proudly consider themselves a developer of young talent, especially in recent years. And as Gareth Bale has found out, the fans can be just as demanding, having ripped the Welshman to shreds over his performances last season. Can Sterling hope to get into a front three of Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema? It would be surprising if he found a new home on the bench rather than the pitch.
This should be a warning to a young Englishman like Sterling, as it is always tempting to move as quickly as possible to earn a pretty pay day and fill up your trophy cabinet. Yet whilst these are great, at his age what he needs is game time and guidance. His potential might be worth £50 million, but at his current level that is not an accurate reflection. Sterling will get there in time, but it would be reached far quicker in the Red of a Liverpool shirt.
Sterling has many years left in him to win trophies and compete with the crème of Europe on a yearly basis. If he were to stay at Liverpool, even for just one more year rather than jump the gun thanks to a money-grabbing agent, his valuation and contractual demands would undoubtedly rise.
The grass is not always greener on the other side, and on the Anfield pitch Sterling has a flourishing green surface to hone his craft.