Raheem Sterling has exposed flaws in Liverpool’s desire to play fair Andy Hunter Andy Hunter

Raheem Sterling with his daughter and a supporters' award

The news will have struck with force in Boston and might, just might, prompt Fenway Sports Group to revise the strategy it has pursued at Liverpool since acquiring the club at the high court in October 2010. We are talking of Michel Platini’s announcement that Uefa is easing its rules on financial fair play, of course, not Raheem Sterling’s desire to quit Anfield this summer. Although the two are inextricably linked.

“We wouldn’t have moved forward on Liverpool except for the passage of FFP,” John W Henry, FSG’s principal owner, told the Guardian’s David Conn 12 months after the fraught takeover from the almost ruinous ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Since then, FSG has operated in line with Platini’s ideals while bemoaning the loopholes within FFP that other clubs have exploited.

Raising Liverpool’s commercial revenue from £62m in the financial year before their takeover to £104m in 2013-14 and building a new main stand at Anfield, in which half of the extra 8,500 seats will be reserved for corporate hospitality, is testament to FSG’s plans for the club to live within its lucrative means. Buying or developing young players with rich potential is also fundamental to the strategy as FSG, three years into the process with Brendan Rodgers as manager, plays the long game to keep up with the Joneses at Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.

That strategy looks fundamentally flawed, however, when a player who Rodgers claims has the potential to be world class wants out at the age of 20.

“It’s never been about money,” said Sterling in the interview with the BBC last month that generated the negative headlines he now supposedly feels Liverpool should have protected him from. “I talk about winning trophies throughout my career. That’s all I talk about. I don’t talk about how many cars I’m going to drive, how many houses I’ve got. I want to be the best I can be.”

The finances involved in Sterling’s contract saga are now well-documented. He has missed out on over £1m in wages by rejecting Liverpool’s offer of a new five-year deal worth £100,000 a week and will wave goodbye to a further £3.38m should the impasse drag on until the summer of 2016, when he will have only 12 months remaining on his current £35,000-a-week contract. The advice received from representative Aidy Ward, plus the absence of a contract offer from Liverpool when Sterling was part of a title-challenging side last season, has been criticised extensively too.

But take the England international at his word and his desire to leave represents a damning verdict on Liverpool’s prospects under FSG.

Steven Gerrard’s Anfield farewell gave Liverpool opportunity to recognise loyalty and a heartfelt connection to the club, but also their fleeting presence in modern football. Players rarely play the long game and, as Sterling joined the lap of honour after Saturday’s defeat by Crystal Palace, his daughter in his arms, it was in the knowledge Anfield will not be home to Gerrard or Champions League football next season. This failure to finish in the top four this term means Liverpool have qualified for the Champions League once in six seasons. The club have won one trophy – the League Cup – in nine years and are facing yet another crucial summer in the transfer market, plus the inevitable transitional problems that entails. Liverpool have the fifth highest turnover in the Premier League and are currently fifth in the Premier League table.

Maybe there is some truth in Sterling’s protestations he is not “a money-grabber” – though he and Ward know Manchester City, one leading suitor, would be prepared to pay around £150,000 a week – and glory is his primary motivation for wanting a move? If so, it exposes the risk in FSG’s policy of building for a future and not the present.

Gerrard and Rodgers are both on record as saying the club must sign proven talent this summer. It would represent a welcome departure in the eyes of supporters if Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s chief executive, confirmed that was the intention during the scheduled meeting with Sterling and Ward on Friday.

The indications are it will come too late and that the winger has resolved to go, although his exit is by no means a formality. FSG proved during Luis Suárez’s first attempt to leave Liverpool in 2013 that it will not be coerced into a transfer or sell a major talent to a Premier League rival.

Not that Sterling is in Suárez’s bracket in terms of ability or affection from Liverpool supporters. One factor in Liverpool’s dismal end to the season, failure to qualify for the Champions League or reach the FA Cup final, is the deterioration in the 20-year-old’s form since controversy over his unsigned contract erupted. Liverpool held Suárez to his contract and were rewarded with a phenomenal season from the Uruguay international that almost yielded the league title.

In contrast, criticism has got to Sterling, although he can legitimately cite the club’s failures in the transfer market last summer as a reason he has performed a variety of roles, including becoming the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

His influence may have waned during the run-in but Sterling has started more games for Liverpool this season than any outfield player apart from Jordan Henderson. Only Gerrard has scored more goals for Rodgers’ team than his 11 (and having lost his two leading goalscorers from last season – Suárez and the injured Daniel Sturridge – the manager will not countenance a repeat this summer).

Yet as he looks around the Liverpool dressing room and sees Mario Balotelli on a basic £80,000 a week, Glen Johnson on £120,000 a week and even the likes of Fabio Borini earning far in excess of his £35,000 per week wage, Sterling, just like his employers in Boston, must also question the merits of financial fair play.

Read more:http://www.theguardian.com

Short URL: http://www.choicetv.org.uk/?p=3339