Wednesday 13 December 2017

John Giles: Raheem Sterling is right to hold out for best deal

Attempts to bully their young star reflect badly on Liverpool


THERE'S only way to respond to a bully and Raheem Sterling is doing just that by digging in his heels and telling Liverpool football club that he has all the power in his contract negotiation.

They just don't get it, John Henry and his pals, do they? The cent hasn't dropped for them yet. Sterling can sit back, play his football for the next few years and when his deal unwinds, take off for wherever he feels his career will advance.

I'm not sure I would have done an interview along the lines Sterling gave to the BBC. In fact, he would probably have been better served to say nothing at all.

There is clearly something badly wrong with the approach Liverpool's transfer committee are taking that they cannot hold on to their best players, no matter what end of the age spectrum they are at.

There is a roadmap already in place for how to avoid the situation they are currently in. Do the opposite to what they did with Steven Gerrard.


However, from what Sterling has said, the damage was already done while Henry and the committee were talking to their captain through lawyers instead of doing the decent thing and offering him a deal to stay for another year at the club he helped keep alive over three decades.

It was worth recalling the progress of Gerrard's decision to leave the club and his comments after he had announced he was going.

Gerrard claimed that he would have signed a deal last summer if they had offered one. Clearly the club was playing hardball over cash and while that is fair enough, there has to be a different approach to a player of his stature.

I've no doubt Gerrard was playing his own game very well indeed but he was angry with Liverpool's owners and that was very obvious.

The serious consequence of their attitude to Gerrard was an emasculation of his manager Brendan Rodgers who stated clearly that he wanted the captain to play on for another year at Anfield and has been trying to manage the fallout ever since.

Rodgers also ran into heavy weather when the club signed Mario Balotelli after he stated "categorically" that Liverpool would never sign him and now, he has been further undermined by doing the owners' bidding and heaping pressure on Sterling.

That is the only interpretation I can put on Rodgers recent suggestions that Sterling had turned down "an incredible offer".

The implication was very straight forward. This is a greedy lad who has been offered a deal which he should be falling over himself to sign but has chosen to take the dark path.

It was poor form from Rodgers. He knows well that Liverpool got Sterling for a song from QPR and while there are sell-on clauses, they could be dealing with a player who will ultimately net the club a £50m or £60m profit.

I don't believe Sterling is one bit greedy. If I was dealing with the transfer committee at Anfield I would do exactly as he is doing.

Rodgers believes that a young player should decide his own destiny and by that he means that Sterling shouldn't be dealing with agents.

In other words, it's okay for Liverpool football club to have a highly paid team of lawyers and financial men on their side of the negotiating table but a 20 year-old innocent should make his own decisions with nobody to lean on.

Laughable. Or it least it would be if Henry and Rodgers didn't actually believe it. That makes it disgraceful. As I said above, whether clubs like it or not, the reality is that players have the power in the modern game

Even if Sterling did decide to do what Rodgers wants and make up his own mind about his future without any help at all, the lad is not blind and he is not stupid.

All he had to do for the last six months was watch how the club treated an Anfield legend and how in the end, Gerrard was an asset, an expensive line on a balance sheet, before reaching same conclusions I have reached.

Sterling is also seen as an asset but he has no reason to buy into Liverpool's priorities. He admitted in the BBC interview that he would have signed an extension at the end of last season if they had offered him one but they didn't.

But he, of course, has the perfect answer to all of this. He has two years left on his contract and if the club tell him that they will sell him if he doesn't sign a new deal, he should take Rodgers advice, settle down to some hard work and give everything he has for the next two seasons before sailing off into the sunset.

He owes Liverpool nothing.

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