I’M away. In Fes, Morocco. Been quite the culture shock. Everywhere I look it is full of fellas sitting around arguing and talking shite, not doing much else.
Massive, massive culture shock obviously. Anyway.
It’s good being away. You get your news in dribs and drabs. Not sitting on The Twitter or getting a text about this, that and the other. There is suddenly room to contemplate. What I’ve been contemplating is this:
Elite football careers are *weird* aren’t they. They have loads of innate rules which don’t really add up much of the time. And they are only getting weirder.
Martin Skrtel in part provoked this. He’s having nothing to do with a reported four-year contract where basic pay is £3million a year but which then rises up to £5million with bonuses. Twelve million pounds, minimum. His rationale is that it is the sort of contract offered to an older or injury-prone player. He seems downright insulted by this. He might be right to feel that way.
But this is odd. The idea that just when he is likely to be on a downward curve he gets a very lucrative long-term offer which manages to reflect the reality of this, should, in part, be a good thing. Years of security combined with incentive to produce.
In making this offer Liverpool look to gently change a footballing convention. Skrtel would normally be offered the short-term extension, being told tomorrow is the same as yesterday until it very much isn’t. Or he would be offered the golden handshake contract — he’s been good for us and so here is one year too many, because all the best. Skrtel’s biggest beef appears to be “this isn’t how this is meant to be”. There is a convention and Liverpool are going against it.
There’s an argument to say this should have been wrapped up 12 months ago, an argument I’d normally be right behind, but how do you offer a contract like this one 12 months ago when it is deemed to be an insult now?
Broadly speaking from where I am the club are being sensible. It’s perhaps even a generous offer given that he presumably hits his big targets the next two seasons, though it reflects the reality that the club would probably prefer not to do centre half business this window. And yet Skrtel, through a combination of current climate and sheer surprise, feels able to not just reject it quietly but lambast it publicly.
If you challenge convention, however gently, this is what can happen. And if you do it from a position of weakness, well that is only going to make it worse. There are rules, man.
Convention and its weirdness are part of the Raheem Sterling situation. Except in this instance Liverpool need a return to convention. In the accepted career path of the precocious footballer he has missed a step. He should be going, I don’t know: QPR, Southampton, Liverpool, Real Madrid. That is the way this sort of thing is meant to work. A move to Southampton early after impressing at QPR. Then he should have done really well 18-20 at Southampton, got a big move to Liverpool, kept improving and then got his chance aged 24 or 25 to Real Madrid. Everyone is into that. Everyone.
Instead he’s done the 17-20 bit at Liverpool and that 17-20 bit includes all the 17-20 bits that happen everywhere. He’s looked sublime at times and looked a little worn out at others. He’s been poor at the end of 14-15 when he was Liverpool’s best player at the end of 13-14. He’s been asked to be one of Liverpool’s three best players and not been compensated accordingly. Circumstances and his own talent have dictated that he’s at the 22-23 year old bit of the conventional curve while reality is elsewhere.
This is partially Liverpool’s success — identifying him when he was so young, during Benitez’s time, and developing him so brilliantly during Rodgers’ time. And it is partially Liverpool’s failing — his importance should have been acknowledged last summer and compensated accordingly to get him on the conventional curve.
That convention is very important to Liverpool. It cannot, under any circumstances, be broken. It is unreasonable to expect Liverpool to keep every good player who plays for them indefinitely but it is reasonable to expect those players to only play for one big club after they leave Liverpool — the one they sign for (unless of course they fail to impress there — Michael Owen — and have to rebuild their careers or move on an Alonso-esque free late in their career).
The reason why Liverpool shouldn’t conceive of selling him to any English rival is that it creates that career path — that Liverpool are the club before the club before the club. Any club can be the club before the club. In a weird sense arguably Barcelona now are for Fabregas. Madrid clearly are for Morata. Manchester United for Ronaldo.
But you don’t ever want to be the club before the club before the club — once you reach that point it is difficult to get back from. You don’t want that to be a thing. If Sterling isn’t ready for a Madrid or Barcelona then selling him elsewhere in England creates a frankly terrifying precedent for Liverpool, more so than a klutz sixth-place finish. Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona. That is allowed. Liverpool, Arsenal, Madrid — absolutely not. It appeared that John Henry understood this around Suarez. It will need to be understood again.
It’s also why Liverpool supporters have revolted against Sterling; he’s disturbing our established convention. He’s not as good, nor has he achieved as much, as a 23-year-old version of himself when we begin to accept he might move on at some point soon.
He’s not done it enough in big games, forgetting he has done it more than often enough in the limited number of big games he has had to play in, for instance Chelsea, Southampton away and Spurs this year and loads last year specifically opening the scoring while running the show against Man City, what was then the biggest league game at Anfield in 20 years, while Luis Suarez mooched around Demichelis’s back pocket. He’s been especially impressive while taking into account the fact he is just 19-20. If he were 23 he’d be better and he would have played and produced in more big games as he would have played in more. Naturally.
All this could continue to work against him with supporters. He goes to Madrid now, for big money, and doesn’t produce immediately then their supporters could start on him — forget he’s 20, he has just cost 55 million Euros.
You mess with convention at your own risk in football. The only way Liverpool really succeed in the ultimate, nineteenth title sort of way is to mess with it and that is going to hurt at times. We’ve established that before. It’s not the only way Sterling succeeds though and that’s why he should do two more years minimum at Anfield. But it all is, yet again, proof of the tightrope Liverpool have ended up walking, partially not due to the current owners, administrators, manager and, yes, players and partially because of them too. Spurs to the left of us, Barca to the right.
Here we are. Stuck.
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Fez has served you well. This is an excellent contemplation — dare I say ‘outstanding’? Thank you.
Fed up agreeing with you!!
I reckon it’s Skrtels agent trying an Aidie Ward and angling for a big payday. All agents are scumbags and should be shot a dawn in front of the Kop.
Isn’t Skrtels agent Aidie Ward?, I read He was somewhere..
Nice being away from twitter eh? I quit the thing a year ago and my life is much better. I’m not a knee jerker and I got sick of arguing with those that are. In all honesty I’m still on twitter but no LFC related tweeps on my timeline except James Pearce and a Guardian/Telegraph writer or two. I chat shite about other stuff on there now.
About the article-I laughed out loud when I read Skrtel’s comments about his contract-“it’s a contract given to older players” he says…well guess what Skeletor-you are older players! Sign the thing and shut it….if he even said those things of course.. Incentivised deals are good thing and if you believe in your ability then step up to the plate. If he gets injured he will still be making more than any human deserves to be paid for walking around with a medicine ball in a hot tub.
Sterling-sheesh I have no idea what to even think about that one. So much nonsense in the media there’s no way to sift through it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was at Liverpool next year-think he’s way too English to go to Spain-now or later. Strange how the English lads don’t get that Spain is a nicer place to live for a 23 year old… He probably sees Chelsea as the pinnacle-that’s his generation. Should probably stop by Danny Sturridge’s house and chat about what it’s like down there… Sturridge may have not been better than Sterling when he was sitting on the bench at Chelsea but he was certainly a more effective footballer. He may have a word or two of advice about “big clubs”.
Anyway-enjoy Morrocco. Beautiful place. Enjoy the language difference. They’re probably arguing about Liverpool too….
Exceptional piece, as per Neil
Very relavent and profound and frankly sums up the FSG unconventional ‘NETTO’ esque approach to football. However I’m relieved to say LFC are not quite at the charging 20p for carrier bags stage just yet., however In my view there’s an element of bitter sweet re the Skrtl contract situation in as much as is this a worrying trend with LFC in relation ti its players and their agents in the wake of the Stirling/Ward ‘gate’ scandal, maybe adopting tactics born from necessity in order to counter claim the FSG crass and cynical tactic of penny pinching and brinkmanship. You’re 100% dead right Neil and it gets right under my skin like a bad rash! JWH is clearly an extremely clever fella and yet what does he think he’s playing at? In wake of FIFA gate (the scandals are gushing at the minute) Do FSG honestly think the European Footballing Billionaire playground and its financial and contractual landscape is ready to adopt their unconventional NETTO esque approach to saving 20p on carrier bags? And until it is let the Club carry on the status quo and not alienate this Magestic institution or bring it into disrepute by using the B word. Brinkmanship with players and agents, and I say it for 2 reasons, 1 is crucially its a game you will NEVER ever win and is probably the main reason we are now experiencing these contractual issues whether it’s existing players or transfer targets, and 2 , its not the way LFC do their business and admittedly in the past we may have over paid for players, BUT and here’s the big but which we as fans are only to aware, if the Targets are worth it then frequently you have to what you have to do to get your man
Oh I missed a bit above. I meant to finish it by saying theres a couple of Closes in Sales when you’re just trying to give the prospective customer a nudge to get the sale in the bag, And maybe Brendan played the FSG crew at their own game when sat in his meeting earlier this week and said to them ‘ You remember the quality or more to the point, the lack of quality long after the price is forgotten’ or ‘We all know the smart arse know-it-all who knows the cost of everything however knows the value of nothing’. Pretty apt for FSG at this moment in time
Excellent. As bloody usual.
I’m particularly upset over Sterling – not angry at him or his agent, but sad this has happened, has been allowed to happen, now, at a time we need to be taking disaffected prodigies from other clubs. Wasn’t that a thing, once? Not so far back. Brendan the rehabber of talent, polisher of rough diamonds, harnesser of genius.
A la Coutinho. A la Sturridge. A la Suarez. And, we thought, Sterling.
You mention morata. Add in Tevez & Pogba. Juve last paid top lira (this being pre-euro) for a player when they bought Buffon.
Doesn’t always work. Flipside of Tevez is Robinho. But when it works…
FSG are not looking to challenge convention. They are simply looking to cut costs and lean the clubs operations to the Max. They need more of the 280/300m revenues.
Those revenues now being the only real difference between us and Everton. The realistic sporting expectations are now the same.
Something not lost on most bitters.
“Spurs to the left Barca to the right” is realistically “Everton to the left Spurs/Goons to the right.
Just heard, via the miracle of radio, some expert on American sports. FSG may have lost the golden touch…
Red Sox have just finished bottom of their division.
They’ve now finished bottom in 3 of the last 4 seasons.
Their recruitment policy is the subject of much criticism; have now abandoned stated policy of youth development, throwing money at the problem. They signed a player on massive wages, but have played him out of position, where he’s been a conspicuous failure.
Oh, and I thought we were in safe hands.
Are you suggesting that Brendan Rodgers’ mania for playing people in positions that they are totally incapable of filling is actually an FSG directive??
More that BR was lucky to keep his job despite such a high league finish. Making the owners look bad…
(Anyone who wants to hear the interview should listen again to the talksport transfer tavern – a poor man’s gutmann in the gutter, but I was desperate – last night. It’s at start of 2nd hour, right after 6pm news. Alan Brazil screensavers are very much optional…)
The message I am getting from this article is basically that both Skertl and Sterling are better in their own minds than in the eyes of the club and it’s fanbase.
Both of them are deluded.
Skertl has been decent and no more than that.
I can’t have this idea that he is somehow irreplaceable.
The same goes for Little Richard as well.
If the club is finally coming around to the idea that it is bigger than these players then that is a good thing surely.
I would be looking at replacing Skertl just due to him blabbing in public.
I am sick of players blabbing to the media about their wages and contracts.
Move them on because if they don’t want to be here then why should we want them anyway?
Players who mock the institutions they represent are not worth a worry.
We are Liverpool.
They are greedy.
We should be looking to eradicate greed and replace it with hunger at our club.
Let all the greedy so and so’s go.
We will be instantly better.
How do you differentiate greed from hunger? Why should a player (Sterling) being paid considerably below his true market worth, & leading the charge in the absence of a single other fit viable half-decent striker, not allowed to become discontented? Sterling stated in his ill-advised bbc interview that it was about the desire to win trophies, not the money. Does that sort of intent not mark him out as exactly the sort of ruthless / hungry winner we need at the heart of our team? Did Rooney not do likewise, precipitating the signing of Van Persie, & another league title?
I find your logic confusing, sorry.
Sterling is a bird in our hands.
The difference is easy.
Rooney had already proved what sort of a player he was when arguing over the contract you mention by winning league titles.
Can you remind me again the trophies Raheem has brought home to Liverpool?
He had every chance too this season and flopped in the big games which is when “big stars” like Rooney come to the fore.
Completely different to Sterling.
Sterling has proved nothing and yet he wants everything.
I say let him go.
Anfield, even with the refurbishment would not fit his ego in…..
Failure to win trophies is collective, not individual.
Torres won nothing with us. Nor did Mascherano.
If it’s personal accolades, how about European Young Player of the Year?
Oh, and the Golden Samba.
Sterling is completely irrelevant.. I am not even convinced he’s as good as Markovic, except he’s been given all the opportunity as Brendan does with those he warms to. Should someone be prepared to pay over the odds for him, so be it, coz for all the media hype this is far from a complete player. Skrtel however is possibly the most important player in the team.. Liverpool cannot afford to mess that one up as experienced defenders in his ilk will not struggle to move on. Not saying I do not agree with the spirit and gist of the article, but LFC lose Skrtel in an attempt to save a few million (especially in lieu of the way transfer funds are wasted at the club), and we will be seriously exposed. 98 league goals shifted in the 2 seasons, and Skrtel probably saved us from another 50 over that period. One can only hope the coaching replacements can explain to BR how to defend.
Can’t agree with you on Skrtel.
If he is that good then why did we buy Sahko and Lovren to replace him?
Poor management by Rodgers to buy two 20 million pound centre backs and then play the defender you wanted out after the Oldham FA cup tie when Matt Smith bullied him.
In fact most good strong strikers bully him.
Benteke loves him, Costa loves him, Lukaku loves him…
I know he has a lot of fans amongst Liverpool fans and I can respect that.
I just do not agree with it.
Sahko is our best defender by a mile.
Or put it another way… Sahko and Lovren have played less than 10 games together as a partnership.
Only at Liverpool do we buy players and then not play them!!!
this article is totally out of convention!
I don’t see eye to eye with Neil on Sterling. *If* Sterling was consistently one of our star players, then sure, he has the right to demand parity with Sturridge etc. The fact that we’ve asked him to be one of our 3 best players and he’s had the odd really good game doesn’t mean he’s entitled to the pay of a consistently outstanding player. And let’s for one second consider Coutinho who’s had two and a half seasons where he’s been really really good for us (much more consistently so than Sterling). Signed a contract for 70K, allegedly, with the minimum of fuss.
Sterling’s behaviour has disgusted me and I wouldn’t mind if I never see him wearing our shirt again. Let him become the latest Rodwell/Wright-Philips.
I think FSG wanted to bring success to the club, when they joined. However, it looks like they have now worked out that there are smarter and less risky ways to manage their investment.
We are now run like a significantly less-shit Newcastle. I don’t think they are that fussed about the Champions League. Reaching the point where we are good enough to qualify for it, seven or eight out of ten, just requires too much of an injection of cash to make it worthwhile for them.
Even then, they would have to chuck even more money at the squad, to avoid us being one of the teams likely to go out in the initial group stage usually in seasons where we did qualify. They will be aware just how much our league form tends to suffer, in years where we do have European games to play.
Fans will moan and some may even make threats, but the situation at Newcastle shows that they have little to worry about. Ashley still goes to the games, when he feels like it. FSG have a whole ocean between them and the disgruntled supporters. With waiting lists for season tickets, they can do what they like.
Neil makes a good point about not wanting to become the club that sells to the better club who then sell to the elite club. FSG want us to be a feeder club, but also a feeder club that sits at the very top table of feeder clubs (as laughable as that may sound). They have probably worked out that the elite feeder clubs get more for their prize players than they actually should. If so, that’s pure moneyball.
If you think about it, what they are doing makes perfect sense. Fans don’t like it, because they themselves would always choose to gamble rather than play it safe.
FSG won’t be panicking at all. LFC generates huge revenue and the value of the club will continue to grow. Next season, they can look forward to packed houses, further money pouring in from a variety of sources and the sale of Coutinho for perhaps 50 million in the Summer of 2016. Emre Can, Origi or Markovic will be earmarked for sale in 2017 if they progress as FSG hope.
It’s a great business model. We criticise FSG for simply doing their job well. They are businessmen managing their business successfully. Fans forlornly cling on to the belief that ruthless free-market capitalists go weak at the knees at the thought of a bit of tin being paraded around town in an open-topped bus.
Trophies, players, managers, stadiums, agents, endorsements, media rights (and you can add on fans as a footnote) are just elements for them in what is a far more absorbing pastime than just football.
It might take the commercial release of a big-budget video/pc game, on the scale of Championship Manager but where the player assumes the role of owner rather than just a bit-part contributor (the coach), before the public realise where the real game is taking place nowadays.
Absolutely spot on this comment and agree with everything.
It’s hard for supporters to accept where we are and that’s why BR is getting the brunt of the abuse – he has made mistakes but there is a much bigger picture.
The amount of apathy amongst our support when G&H were in charge and the amount of abuse aimed at Rafa at the time made me adjust the way I support. It’s happening again now with Brendan and FSG.
I remain positive that our way of doing things can bare fruit, we’ll unearth a couple more gems and find ourselves back in the European places next season. The day I stop enjoying going the match is the day to turn it in.
“And let’s for one second consider Coutinho who’s had two and a half seasons where he’s been really really good for us (much more consistently so than Sterling). Signed a contract for 70K, allegedly, with the minimum of fuss.”
That right there kind of proves that fans have turned on Sterling because they feel, I don’t know, hurt? Betrayed? Because Coutinho’s form has been just as, if not even more inconsistent than Sterlings but because he Decided to toe the line and sign the contract put in front of him everyone has decided he is the messiah or whatever.
Sterling is an excellent talent and thats why FSG won’t be letting him go for a while, they recognise the fact that if a team is willing to come in for him and put forward maybe 40-50 million,its because they know that in 2/3 years their investment will pay substantial dividents in the form of performances (consistency)/ transfer fee. Liverpool can’t really afford to lose him. Nobody, I repeat, nobody in that team was posting better number when they were 19/20, none of them. Thats why I don’t want to hear about Markovic/Ibe, they aren’t in Sterlings league.
Whats worse is that the only time Sterling has ever come out publicly and said something is that interview where he was trying to put forward his side of the story. You can’t come up with a single quote from him at all after that. Not even a single quote in which Sterling disrespects/insults the club yet so many have taken this personally.
In closing I’d like to point out something ironic, people who are quick to say stuff like “Fickle fans this, fickle fans that/ have you forgotten what Rodgers did last season?/short memories etc.” have also forgotten the havoc Sterling was causing last season, I’m not sure I can recall watching 19 year old have a better season, finishing and consistency aside, than the season Sterling had last year. Get a grip, he’s that good (age taken into consideration) and the club really can’t afford to let him go. We’re not even in a position from which we could re-invest the transfer fee effectively. Calm down.
Sorry! I apologize for having an opinion that you don’t like. I thought this was a discussion forum. My bad.
I’m sorry it looks like I’m trying to silence anyone,thats not my intention at all. My aim was to counter a statement which I do not agree. If you don’t agree with my statement, feel free to do the same.
I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. sterling looks great, plays hard, has amazing skills and has developed a long way. He may well be one of our best players currently.
But here’s the crux (and surprisingly you included it in your comment). He is all of those things “for his age”. He’s a kid, he’s a bloody good kid, but he isn’t the complete package, yet. And, of course, there’s no guarantee he will.
FSG have taken a very sensible approach in my opinion. He’s been offered a very good salary, not pinnacle wages but very good wages (more than Coutinho if rumours are to be believed). Wages that are higher than most 23/24 year olds in the Premiership, even in the clubs above us in the league. He’s turning it down because “Real Madrid” would pay him more apparently. That’s nice.
I think if we cash in on him to a genuinely “rich” club, we will find he will probably end up like so many other kids who thought they’d made it to the top when they’d just got to base camp.
I don’t think FSG are to blame on this one, neither Rodgers (although some of the fan base will be blaming him for the sinking of the Titanic soon) or even Sterling. It’s his agent who is the one to blame on this. He’s got into Sterling’s ear, blown smoke up his arse and made the kid feel like it’s him and Aidy against the world and Aidy is his only hope. It’s practically mental abuse. I have no doubt that if Sterling does force a move he will regret it.
Oh Boys and Girls! You don’t have to kick off like this! We all want the best! But these days will seem like the “Good Old Days” at some point.
I started watching Liverpool many,many years ago.My first game was against Barnsley Reserves;we won 7-1.A crowd of 23,000.When were in the 2nd division.
I was about 14 when we played our first game after promotion away at Blackburn.We were all on the train singing and dancing.When we got there kids under 16 got in for 3p and could sit on the perimeter of the pitch.Men of about 25 got in for 3p and sat with us.When we scored I ran into the centre circle to shake hands with Ronnie Moran.And he shook my hand back!
We used to go to Mellwood every day in the school holidays.I got that many autographs from St.John,Hunt and Peter Thompson I was on first name terms with them.Shankly would greet us every morning.”Hi boys,don’t come on the pitch but come in and watch us.You could be playing here one day!”
We saw things that we saw repeated in the game on Saturday.Nudging each other “Look! Watch what Gerry Byrne’s going to do!”
I was at that game against Inter Milan;one of 73,000.St Etienne 85,000.I’ve spoken to everyone who was there since.I remember some St Etienne supporters arriving late.I was in the paddock.They came up through the dug-out.The paddock was jeering them.As they came up the steps they grew taller and taller.And they were all built like built like Arnold Schwarzenegger.And the paddock fell silent.
I remember a game against Spurs one Grand National day morning.Tommy Smith and Kevin Keegan had missed penalties.Another foul in the box and some fella shouted “Oh look,they’re wasting time now.They’re gonna keep giving penalties away!”
We beat Crystal Palace 18 Nil and Ian Wright played us by himself! Opta stats will surely tell us that we averaged 84 shots on target in each game and scored with 85% of them.Ray Clemence went a whole season without conceding a single goal!I remember every single one of Roger Hunt’s 143 goals in 1964.
1962….Brazil Chacha! Chacha!.Chacha Chacha cacha chacha cha!We did it with claps!
Moenchen Gladbach.Toshack coming on with crutches in the restarted game the following night because Shankly had seen they were poor in the air.And we (he) battered them!
Keegan running 300 yards with Voigts trying to trip him up every step. of the way.
Sure,there were disappointments;I was convinced I would be in the squad against Leeds in 1965 (I was about 15 at the time).But I’d been to Mellwood regularly for about 3 years by then;and had all the autographs.
But life’s full of disappointments sometimes.But I’m still hopeful!
So,let’s not fall out.Eh!
“Been quite the culture shock. Everywhere I look it is full of fellas sitting around arguing and talking shite”… was that before or after the second transfer committee episode – what a hoot!!! #moreofthatplease