EVERY community has ways of using labels to damn individuals into loathing, suspicion or worse. In inner city areas, daubing “so-and-so is a grass” on a wall has long been a particularly effective weapon; in the middle ages ordinary people held responsible for crop failures were put to death after being accused of “witchcraft” by their peers. As Raheem Sterling has discovered over the past week, football has its own version: greed is the deadly sin that it cannot abide and he has been found guilty of the offence.
How football, an industry awash with avarice, can hang anyone out to dry for pursuing personal wealth is unfathomable. If you have agents draining money from the game, players of immense wealth joining tax avoidance schemes, former players refusing to leave the gravy train, owners using the sport as an extension of their venture capitalism and journalists enlisting agents of their own to try to join in with the milking of this cash cow, how can any individual be singled out and accused of greed?
A generation or two ago, a player refusing to sign the lucrative contract he had been offered would be worthy of such a damaging tag. Then, the idea that there was a collective effort involving players, directors, owners and supporters might have been romantic but there was a genuine sense that we were all in it together. Now, the Thatcherite ideal has well and truly taken hold, with fans treated as customers, players as commodities and club colours as flags of financial convenience. Greed is good for all involved so how can it be bad when Sterling morphs into Oliver Twist by holding out for more?
The complexities of the Liverpool forward’s contract situation are too numerous to be reduced to sheer gluttony. For a start, Sterling, like every other footballer, exists within a marketplace in which your worth is determined by what someone will pay you and in which status is reflected by salary. If Liverpool are not willing to pay him as much as a rival club and as much as he feels he deserves, then the risk is that he will leave, which, funnily enough, was exactly how they came to sign Sterling from Queens Park Rangers for £600,000 when he was just 15 years old.
There is then the issue of what a player is worth within the club he is at. In Sterling’s case, is he really worth about £40,000 per week less than Daniel Sturridge, who plays half as often? Does he deserve parity only with Mario Balotelli, whose signing has been an unmitigated disaster and who, according to Brendan Rodgers, ruled himself out of Liverpool’s defeat to Arsenal at the weekend?
Should Liverpool not reflect the fact that Sterling has been underpaid for the past 18 months since signing a contract worth a basic £35,000 per week in any new deal? Is there not an argument that a player who is Liverpool’s most consistent attacker and a talent deemed worthy of the 2014 European Golden Boy award should be remunerated in keeping with such status? Should Liverpool not reflect their own financial health, the fact that they are about to have their coffers swelled further by the new TV deal and the imminent departure of two of their biggest earners, Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson, by ensuring that their best young player is retained with the goodwill of all parties?
There are, of course, counter-arguments to all of these standpoints. Sterling is only 20 and remains a developing talent rather than the finished article. Liverpool, a club that was on the brink of administration just five years ago, has a duty to put fiscal responsibility at the heart of everything it does, even in an industry which has been taken over by largesse. Rodgers, a manager who prioritises team spirit and unity, has to ensure dressing-room harmony is not destabilised by one of the youngest players being the best rewarded.
Then there is the potential for the further erosion of relationships between supporters and players (not a concern that clubs have shown an interest in, to be fair) should Liverpool cave in to the demands of a 20-year-old at a time when many of his peers cannot afford tickets to attend the matches he plays in. Moral quandaries abound and there are no easy answers, which is why taking sides in this stand-off, damning one side as greedy or the other as mean, is pointless.
As is almost always the case in football, Sterling’s fate will be decided by a range of factors and among them will be what Liverpool and other clubs are willing to pay him. If anything, it would be better for Liverpool if greed is his prime motive because that would give them the best chance of keeping him. If Sterling is motivated by ambition, they are in a very difficult position. They can always produce more money to give him higher wages, but unless they finish in the top four and win the FA Cup they cannot guarantee him the Champions League football or the success that all modern players crave.
One thing that should never be forgotten is that Liverpool Football Club is part of an investment portfolio overseen by Americans with a background in hedge funds. If the pursuit of riches is a sin, then just about everyone in football is guilty.
Sterling is merely following the example that is set by all around him.
First appeared on The Times website.
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So what is his present fair worth? He’s certainly not worth 150,000 pounds a week, yet. He’s not scoring enough goals.
In absolute terms you can say he’s not worth 150,000 a week but it’s all relative because you have to consider what Sturridge is on having the status as the club’s highest earner but having a poor attendance record for matches being fit for only 50% of games.
Sturridge may have more goal scoring ability than Sterling but if it is spread over a smaller number of performances then there is a case for Sterling, the second best or best most consistently fit attacker in the club to be on the same wage bracket as Sturridge.
I think the 150,000 a week is just a negotiating position from Sterling’s representatives and in the process of further negotiation a figure of 120,000 to 130,000 will probably be what they end up with. A compromise in the middle between LFC’s 100,000 k valuation and Sterling’s reps’ 150,000 k should happen.
But the reason why LFC are in a position where a 20 year old academy graduate, Sterling is the top goal scorer, top chance creator and top dribbler at the club to the point where he can demand the highest wage bracket is a strong indictment of the failure of the transfer policy. Senior ‘marquee’ players like Lallana, Balotelli and Lovren if they were contributing on the pitch to the level they were signed for, then Sterling would not be in a position as a 20 year old to demand these top wages from the club.
The solution if you don’t want future young players demanding top dollar is to prevent them from being the best player at the club through wise spending in the transfer window to bring in top quality experienced senior players.
If we don’t upgrade the squad to bring in top quality senior players then we could be in a position where decent players can hold the club to ransom for wages only to be reserved for world class players. This is how people like Glen Johnson and Joe Cole were able to extort contracts worth over 100k a week. They were supposedly the best in a very bad bunch of players.
I know all that. I also know that if, say, City came along with an offer of 75 million pounds for Sterling that they’d let him go in a heartbeat. I also know that Sterling’s agent can demand 300,000 pounds a week and no one is going to want him at that price. Sturridge can’t help that he’s been injured most of the year. You really can’t hold that against him re: contracts he or anyone else gets. But there also has to be a price that’s fair with out blowing up the wage structure of the team.
I don’t think he wants a new contract with us at ANY price.
you obviously didn’t read the article. he is worth what someone is willing to pay for him…….
From FSG’s point of view, a big payday for Sterling from a deep-pocketed and motivated club, preferably MCFC or CFC or a foreign club, may be preferable thanthem breaking their wage structure for a 20-year old.
The fact that Ibe looked promising is another consideration.
Personally, I hope we sort out his contract but not “at all cost”. If we cannot ” match his ambitions” then let’s the most lucrative deal for the club worked out and bid him a fond adieu!
great young player, important to LFC, just not more important than the team or the club. No player ever has been, should never be. Keep level heads, support the team and let the owners, manager, captain and players do their thing. We have seen it can be a thing of beauty
For all those complaining about whether Sterling deserves this or that , please remember that we apparently lost Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Willian because FSG did not believe that they were worth the amount they were asking. Instead of them we ended up with truly forgettable players who never made a mark on the team. Yes we have Jordan Ibe and other promising players in the youth system but thats of no use if they start leaving after 2-3 years.
Footballers are not the only professionals getting grotesque invokes. I don’t blame him for asking for more. When you are playing well they kiss your arse but when you are surplus to requirements your are just a piece of meat. And your career could be over instantly with a bad break. However, I DO blame him for the way he’s conducted himself: he’s not a shy young vulnerable boy being led by an avaricious agent. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is telling suitors he’s for wooing, that’s whst he’s doing.
He is well valued at 100-120/130k week. FSG were completely disrespectful in their intial 2 offers, 65k and 75k. Then they offered 90k. This is while Sterling helped keep the team afloat for the for the first 1/3 of season. They should have offered him 100k after Boxing day and this would be done. He will probably stay but I bet he gets 130+. He is one of the best talents in Europe. With us not going to CL what big talent will come? . What talent will want to come if Sterling is not here?