Liverpool must not sell Raheem Sterling this summer despite the apparent interest shown by Manchester City over the past month. The financial benefit of selling him is not worth it, while selling him will send out a wrong message about Liverpool being a conducive environment for young players in future.
Why keeping him is the right choice
Liverpool fans are up in arms over the thought of the club selling their best player (in Sterling’s case, one of the best players) for the second season running, and rightly so. The sale of Luis Suarez is still understandable as his snacking habits left him at risk of further suspensions while at Liverpool, and also because most Spanish speaking players dream of playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Manchester United at the height of their powers could not keep hold of Cristiano Ronaldo, so Liverpool selling Suarez was disappointing but understandable. Sterling is one of the most talented young players in Europe, but unlike Suarez, he is not a once in a generation player. He is just 20 years old, and only got a chance to play for the first team due to Stewart Downing’s lack of end product under Kenny Dalglish, and later because Liverpool had started Brendan Rodgers’ tenure with a small squad.
Sterling is not a Scouser, but spent 3 years in the academy before making it to the first team. Liverpool may not pay the big bucks anymore, and they do not win trophies on a regular basis like they did in the past; but Sterling’s development at the club is proof that Liverpool is still a better club than others in the top 5 for young players to develop when given a chance at the right time. Ideally, Liverpool should use their academy to bring through players who would form the core of a great team, and in that regard, selling Sterling would send out the wrong message about Liverpool’s ability to bring young players through.
Selling Sterling does not make financial sense for Liverpool either. The consensus among Liverpool fans, as well as fans of other clubs, seems to be that Raheem Sterling is smart enough to realize that Liverpool will not go anywhere while he is at the club, and hence wants out. It may turn out to be true and Liverpool may not win trophies over the next 5 years, but from the point of view of Raheem Sterling, it would have made more sense to sign the A?100,000 a week contract that he turned down earlier this year. His agent (now almost famous as Raheem Sterling) could have then negotiated a release clause or made a gentleman’s agreement for Liverpool to sell Raheem Sterling one year later, the kind that may have been agreed upon in the case of Luis Suarez.
Instead of that, assuming Liverpool save upwards of A?60,000 a week every time Sterling picks up his weekly wage (that adds up to A?7m over two years), savings that could contribute to paying for wages or transfer fees for another player who can be brought into the club this summer. Should Sterling decide to run his contract down, Liverpool will then receive compensation decided by a tribunal when Sterling leaves. Tottenham’s mischievous bidding may push up Liverpool’s fee for Danny Ings, and if interest in Raheem Sterling remains, the compensation provided to Liverpool in millions could easily reach double figures. Liverpool will only pocket A?32m if they accept Manchester City’s latest bid, so if you compare Liverpool selling Sterling now as against him running down his contract, the additional funds obtained by selling Sterling will only be enough to pay Mario Balotelli’s wages till 2017. So from a financial point of view, is selling Raheem Sterling really worth it?
What is Raheem Sterling worth?
Any time Raheem Sterling misses an open goal is the easiest time to crack “is he worth 50m” jokes, but every player has his price, but that price is not decided by rule of law but by supply and demand. In modern football, it is heavily dependent on the (lack of) ability to negotiate a deal; hence many players are not necessarily sold for what they are worth. There is a reason why Andy Carroll was more expensive than Sergio Aguero, and it has nothing to with either player’s talent.
Sterling missing open chances may mean that he is worth A?25m, for example, but that does not mean that Liverpool should sell him at that amount because he is only worth that much. All said and done, he is still a Liverpool player, so Liverpool are well within their rights to turn down the bids they have received from Manchester City as such transfer fees would not be worth it. Manchester City paid more money for Eliaquim Mangala than the amount they first bid for Raheem Sterling, and will not even be constrained by FFP this time around. Clubs are often made to overpay when others know they have funds available, so if Liverpool want to squeeze more money out of City, they should do so to protect their own interests as selling Sterling at City’s current valuation is not worth it.
In fairness to Manchester City, they are not obligated to pay the amount they are asked for by Liverpool without any questions asked. This is a club where Spanish is the language spoken in the dressing room, while three English players are off the books this summer, despite City having to meet a quota of homegrown players within that squad. City have left this late and are now desperately looking to avoid having go into the league season with a smaller squad. From a financial point of view though, City are being smart in not bidding silly money for Sterling at this time, as they are aware that it will result in other clubs levying higher amounts of English tax on them later on. City need to make improvements to their squad, and so they cannot afford to fill up the English quota for the sake of it.
Another point worth noting is that no other club is showing interest in Raheem Sterling at this time. Letting him join Manchester City would be akin to Liverpool selling Luis Suarez to Arsenal in 2013 for A?40,000,001. For one, Liverpool’s 2013-14 season would never have happened, and Liverpool eventually sold him for nearly double the amount.
So what happens if Liverpool keep Sterling
The popular suggestion associated with players who do not want to be at a club is that they would down tools. That is a possible scenario that has happened multiple times in past – Fernando Torres at Liverpool and Emmanuel Adebayor after every contract renewal are a case in point. Unlike Torres and Adebayor, Raheem . Sterling cannot afford to down tools.
First, Raheem Sterling is on A?35,000 a week, and will want an improved contract at some point in the future whether money is primary motivator in life or not. He is one of the most talented young players in the world, and Liverpool have already indicated that they are willing to pay him more. He is 20 years old though, and were he to down tools right now, his next club will not be as willing to pay him big money.
Secondly, Raheem Sterling wants to play for England in the Euros; playing qualifiers for England post season knowing that injury will nullify the chance for a move is evidence enough. He will want to go into the tournament in top form. Roy Hodgson has already hung him out to dry once before, so his selection for the England squad will not be guaranteed if he had a bad season.
The feeling of Liverpool fans towards Sterling recently is that of hatred for his lack of “loyalty” to the club. The loyalty question has no right answer – fans will always be biased and expect loyalty from good players rather than bad ones. Yes, Sterling’s agent has made derogatory comments about the club on multiple occasions, while Sterling has not exactly helped himself recently, but it is easy to suggest that Liverpool should let Sterling rot on the bench or in the reserves as a punishment if you do not think about the consequences. For all of Liverpool’s deficiencies, Sterling’s development shows that young players can develop under the right circumstances, and treating Sterling badly out of spite will backfire spectacularly when Liverpool need to sell a dream to young players in future. Liverpool could miss out on the Coutinho’s and Sturridge’s of this world if Brendan Rodgers and the hierarchy do not treat Sterling right.
Raheem Sterling may be at Liverpool come August 8, but likely outcome will be him not being accepted by the fans. However, Luis Suarez also wanted to leave the club in 2013, and put on a frown in front of 98,000 people in Sydney that preseason. But the season after that showed that fans were willing to forgive biting and racial abuse of other players if said player scored goals, so Raheem Sterling may be accepted by fans faster than people think.
Keeping Sterling at the club makes sense as a matter of principle, and from a financial standpoint. Liverpool are right to be stubborn over their valuation of Raheem Sterling, but could be flexible and listen to offers beyond a certain amount. Two years ago, Tottenham successfully raised the asking price for Gareth Bale two years ago from an initial bid that was below A?60m to that of the A?100m transfer fee that was eventually paid to them. Every player has a price, and beyond a certain threshold, it may be prudent for Liverpool to cash in on Raheem Sterling. What that threshold is is for Liverpool to decide, but the club must stick to their guns and not show weakness at this time.