herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

sterling out in cold at anfield

Fresh twist as club cancel talks with player and agent

Liverpool's hard-line stance in an increasingly acrimonious stand-off over the future of Raheem Sterling will not impact on the player in the short term.

The club cancelled a scheduled meeting today with the England international and his representative Aidy Ward after comments attributed to the agent claimed the 20-year-old would "definitely not" sign another contract even for £900,000-a-week.

Ward subsequently distanced himself from the quotes in the London Evening Standard and has reportedly threatened to take legal action but the damage had already been done.

It is understood the club saw no point in sitting down to resume talks, which were put on hold two months after the youngster turned down a £100,000-a-week deal in January, if Sterling's camp had already come to their own conclusion.

But while the forward may be in limbo in the medium term - his contract still has two years to run - there is no suggestion he will be sanctioned for the actions of his agent.

Sterling trained with the squad at the club's Melwood complex yesterday, will do so today and technically remains available for selection in Liverpool's final match at Stoke, although manager Brendan Rodgers has a decision to make ahead of Sunday with the player having spent all week in the headlines.

Ward has been widely criticised for his handling of negotiations after turning down the club's offer of a substantial increase on the player's current £35,000-a-week deal.

The player conducted an interview, unauthorised by the club, in which he insisted he was not "a money-grabber" before reports emerged earlier this week - played down by Ward - that Liverpool would be told at the meeting Sterling would not sign a new contract.

Ward's latest gambit appears to have backfired after the club moved to take back the initiative in what is becoming something of a very public phoney war which took an explosive turn following the agent's reported comments to a London-based newspaper.

"I don't care about the PR of the club and the club situation. I don't care," he is quoted as saying.

"He is definitely not signing. He's not signing for £700,000, £800,000, £900,000 a week. He is not signing.

"My job is to make sure I do the best with them (my clients). If people say I am bad at my job, or they are badly advised it does not matter.

"I am not worried. Worried is making a decision not knowing what is going to happen. Every Premier League club will make a bid for him."

Manchester United were reported to have made a cheeky enquiry about the youngster but senior sources at Old Trafford have said he is not on their list of current targets.

Sterling was booed by some fans when he picked up his young player of the year award on Tuesday but former Liverpool captain Graeme Souness believes they were entitled to do so.

"If he's privately making it known he wants to leave Liverpool then that word soon gets out and supporters are entitled to turn on him," he told Sky Sports.

Former Reds defender Jamie Carragher was infuriated by the way Sterling - and his representatives - have acted. "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," he said.

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