WHEN a club’s star player signs a new deal it should signal sighs of relief and celebrations from their fans, especially when said player has been attracting interest from Europe’s big boys.
However, when it was confirmed that Philippe Coutinho had signed a new five-year deal at Liverpool, the reaction was far from that — in fact many seemed resigned to his eventual departure.
That, despite the fact that it makes the Brazilian the club’s highest earner, recognition of his increasing importance to the team. As well as, more importantly, there being no kind of release clause which would tie the Reds down to a future sale.
But still, many seem to think we’ve been here before.
In December 2013, after a summer of wrangling over a move to Arsenal, Luis Suarez signed a new ‘long-term’ deal at Anfield, which saw his wages rise to £200,000-a-week. The crucial detail, however, was that it added a release clause into his contract, the value of which hinged on Champions League qualification.
Upon signing the new deal the Uruguayan said: “I am delighted to have agreed a new deal with Liverpool and have my future secured for the long term.
“I believe I can achieve the ambitions of winning trophies and playing at the very highest level with Liverpool. My aim is to help get us there as quickly as possible.”
The rest is history, if you will. Suarez scored 31 league goals as he fired Liverpool into a title race. They ended up missing out reducing the striker to tears on the pitch, as they all but handed the title to Manchester City after a 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace.
Those tears told a false story. Barcelona came calling, after more disciplinary trouble at the 2014 World Cup, and his release clause was met. Liverpool were powerless and another star was heading for the Anfield exit.
But there’s a crucial difference to consider when comparing the new deals of Coutinho and that of Suarez — and it’s not only in the detail of a release clause. Suarez spent the whole previous summer before his deal kicking up a fuss, threatening legal action and being made to train alone after trying to force a move to a Premier League rival. Coutinho, on the other hand, spent the whole summer being linked with Barcelona and didn’t bat an eyelid. He remained on task and the rumblings from his ‘camp’ were that he was happy at the club.
Upon announcement of Suarez’s new deal it felt Liverpool had all but signed off on a move for the striker, and that of course turned out to be the case. Coutinho’s deal shouldn’t feel that same way.
Another example that can be compared with this is Raheem Sterling, particularly if you want to see how it could go the other way.
Sterling had enjoyed his best season for the club and looked as though he possessed the potential to be genuinely world-class. As such, he went to the club looking for wages that replicated this.
While most believed the club should stand firm, and that Sterling was getting carried away, a few argued that he was now a crucial asset to the club and his wages should reflect that.
The club stood firm. The player and his agent showered themselves in bad press and he left for Manchester City underneath a grey cloud.
It’s hard to blame Sterling for moving on. Liverpool had finished sixth in his final season, captain Steven Gerrard was set to leave the club and things were looking bleak — with the aforementioned Suarez departed, Daniel Sturridge stuck on the treatment table and only Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli to fill those boots. City, on the other hand, had finished second and had the money to keep pushing on, as well as Champions League football.
The key to the Sterling saga, as many saw it, was that Liverpool should have offered a new contract before it even got to the stage where the player thought about leaving. They were also criticised for not offering the departing Gerrard a new deal earlier. Liverpool were looking increasingly weak in contract negotiations.
That’s why it is even more difficult to believe the reaction to Coutinho’s new deal.
The Reds have tied their best player down for five years. He’ll be 30 by the time this deal expires. There is no release clause, so the club can’t be forced into a sale. And they’ve been ruthless in ensuring this deal gets done. There has been no stalling, no disputes with agents, it’s been done swiftly and allows the club to continue trying to achieve their ambitions for the season.
This should be a huge positive for the club, instead it is being spun as a negative.
Is this an effect of modern football? A by-product of the way the Reds are performing at the moment? Does it all have to be doom and gloom?
We’ve got Coutinho. We don’t have to sell him until he’s 30 years old. He isn’t making a fuss.
Can’t we just be happy?