After months of speculation, Raheem Sterling will finally leave Anfield this week after sealing a £49million transfer to Manchester City. The England winger leaves Liverpool under a dark cloud after doing much over the past few months to annoy both the staff and the fans of the club. Greed and bad judgement had clouded the youngsters vision well before City sparked an interest, with Sterling’s controversial agent Aidy Ward acting much like Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings fame taking a lead role in manipulating the England star. After Ward told Liverpool publicly that Sterling would refuse any contract they gave him, even a £900k a week one, it was clear that the Jamaica born star would be leaving the club with the fans having firmly turned against him. This paved the way for Manchester City to swoop, much to the delight of Ward who saw a large pay-day coming his way.
Manchester City have agreed to pay Liverpool £44million up front and an additional £5million in bonuses depending on appearances making Sterling the third most expensive signing for a British club. The player has agreed a five-year, £160k a week contract taking the total spent on this transfer by Manchester City over the £100 million mark. Sterling’s arrival will help City in it’s quest to meet their required home-grown quota but questions remain about whether or not they have they taken a huge gamble on a player who could be poisonous to their squad. City’s move for the twenty year old is based on potential rather than firm knowledge with Sterling having proved little at either club or international level to date. Bursting onto the scene in 2012, Sterling wasted little time in highlighting his talents using his pace and superb dribbling skills to his advantage, forcing everyone at Anfield to their feet. Over the next three years he would force his way into the starting eleven and in the 2013-2014 season play a key role as Liverpool pushed Manchester City all the way in the race for the Premiership. By now he was part of the England team and viewed by many as a star for the future.
But since that season, something has changed. Sterling the boy became Sterling the man and with it came a false sense of entitlement. Out went his apparent passion for the sport, where every game he played was for the love of it rather than the money. That change coincided with agent Aidy Ward’s decision to depart Impact Sports Management and go it alone, taking two of the firms brightest prospects, Sterling and Saido Berahino with him. Now under Ward’s full control, Sterling’s demeanor started to change and not for the better. Rodgers attempted to bring the player back on side with an improved £35k a week contract which Sterling signed but by then Ward was already eyeing a bigger prize – a lucrative move for Sterling away from Anfield. Ward however was less successful in influencing West Brom’s Berahino who decided last week to break ties with the agent after becoming disillusioned with his advice and overall handling of the Sterling situation.
Sterling will join up with his new teammates later this week after completing the obligatory medical on Wednesday. City manager Manuel Pellegrini will be aware of problems the winger caused Brendan Rodgers in recent weeks including calling in sick twice for training and refusing to go on Liverpool’s pre-season tour in order to force his own agenda. The Chilean will be hoping that now that Sterling has achieved his objective he will settle down and focus on his football which he should do. However problems could arise over the course of his contract if Sterling is left on the substitute bench too often, a realistic possibility given City’s vast array of talent at their disposal. City could be faced with another Carlos Tevez situation who famously refused to come on as a sub against Bayern Munich during Roberto Mancini’s reign as he protested his exclusion from the starting eleven. With Ward likely already eyeing up Sterling’s next move in order to secure his next payday, City could be faced with a problem of their own doing. This time, it may not be that easy to find a buyer for the troubled star.
Whilst reluctant to admit it, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will be delighted to have removed the headache that has been hounding him for the past six months. Having accepted early on that one of his prize assets was departing, Rodgers and the club stood firm on their valuation safe in the knowledge that they could with the player under contract until 2017. City was always the likely destination with few other clubs willing to meet Liverpool’s £50million valuation. That money has already been sensibly reinvested in the squad with the signatures of Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne. The removal of the disruptor Sterling from his squad should restore the balance and allow Rodgers to switch to a narrower 4-2-3-1 formation with Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana operating behind a central striker. Sterling’s departure could also open the door to young Jordan Ibe, who has impressed in the club’s youth system over the past few years. As a replica of Sterling, the young winger could be introduced into first team football slowly over the course of the next season as an option from the bench. Rodgers will watch his progress carefully and will be on hand to advise the youngster about every key decision he makes, including the selection of his agent. Sterling may be gone but the club moves on and will learn from their past mistakes hoping that they will never happen again.