Raheem Sterling is being much maligned for his refusal to sign a new contract with Liverpool – some of that criticism is fair, some of it isn’t. The big issue for me though is that all this should not be taking place in the media in public.
Whilst I think a £100,000 a week contract is more than fair for a player of his ability and potential I can see there are two key issues at play.
- Firstly the potential to win trophies and play in the Champions League football is key to any young footballer. Once again Liverpool have failed to qualify for the Champions League – to not have the opportunity to play against the best players in the world is going to be frustrating for Sterling. Liverpool haven’t won a trophy since 2012, when they beat Cardiff on penalties to win the League Cup.
- Secondly, Liverpool Football Club seem to have once again chosen the wrong time for contract negotiations. Sterling, in an interview with the BBC, claimed his future could have been resolved after last season’s title challenge. He said: “If, at that point in time, I was offered a contract, I most definitely would have signed straight away and probably for far less money than is being said now. I think the timing was a bit off.”
Negotiations are negotiations – people say all kinds of things in those meetings to get that compromise that everyone is happy with. But the problem is that currently these thoughts and comments are being made in the press, in front of all of the Liverpool fans. This is what has really led to their criticism of Sterling. It’s little wonder that he received a mixed reception at Liverpool’s end-of-season awards ceremony when he collected the young player of the year prize to a combination of boos, heckling and some applause.
I think Jamie Carragher is completely right to tell Sterling to “keep your mouth shut” and “get on with playing football”. He said on Sky’s Monday Night Football:
“For a 20-year-old kid to be taking on Liverpool Football Club over a contract. To the pit of my stomach that just winds me up, it angers me.
The lad is from London and he obviously wants to go back home. It might not be about money. It may be about trophies or playing in the Champions League. If it’s about trophies, Liverpool had a chance for a trophy this year, in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Aston Villa. Where was Sterling? If you want trophies, they don’t get given to you, you have to earn them, you have to play well in big games. What did Liverpool do in the Champions League? Nothing. What did Sterling do? Nothing.
To do what he’s done now. There’s nothing worse than that. You keep your mouth shut – get on with playing football.”