As it turns out, Raheem Sterling knew exactly what he was doing.
The England international on Tuesday successfully forced through his transfer from Liverpool to Manchester City for 44 million pounds ($68.8 million) -- a record for an English international -- plus an extra 5 million ($7.8 million) should he meet certain targets (which, at these prices, he absolutely should), thus avoiding the protracted transfer saga that many, including yours truly, thought would be on the cards, given the cantankerous circumstances.
To be sure, Sterling was always going to get his move, the only surprise was how quickly it all came together. Then again, perhaps it was a perfect storm: Abu Dhabi-backed City, recently unshackled from the constraints of Financial Fair Play, is once again able to spend what it wants on players; Liverpool, firm with the knowledge that it owes QPR 20 percent of any sale, refused to back down from its 50 million-pound ($78.2 million) asking price; and the player, by refusing to travel to the far East and failing to show up for training, was burning every bridge possible in order to try and force the move. So Liverpool, which has already signed some six players in anticipation of Sterling’s sale (and is by no means done), decided to sell its prized asset for just a little bit less than asking price, possibly in order to avoid the negative long-term effects that holding onto him any longer might have had on the locker room.
Still, you have to wonder why City was so eager to nearly pay full asking price for the player. After all, Liverpool had its hands tied: Sterling was adamant to leave and the club had already begun buying players to replace him. Moreover, there wasn’t a bidding war or indeed many other named suitors for the 20-year-old’s services.
Of course, maybe when you’re Man City, paying an extra five, ten, even 20 million pounds doesn’t really matter that much. Or, could it be that the super-rich club actually thinks it got a deal in paying (up to) 49 million for Sterling?
As SB Nation’s Andi Thomas points out, the Kingston, Jamaica native is already, at 20 years of age, a good player who could certainly go on to become a great one. After Liverpool’s epic 2013-14 season -- when Sterling played alongside Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard -- we know that he thrives in an attacking system alongside other talented attacking players. That said, last season shows that he doesn’t thrive quite as much without the presence of those players. It will be interesting to see how he syncs up with the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva, next season.
But Sterling also gives City something it’s desperately lacking: a top English (outfield) player. Though James Milner and Micah Richards both served City faithfully for several seasons, neither was ever the top English player that Man City needs to help further its brand in its home country. If Sterling can truly grow into a world-class player at the Etihad, then that 49 million-pound transfer fee will pay big-time dividends off the field, as well as on it.
However, judging by the way the player has handled his transfer, Sterling is still very much just a kid, who has yet to realize the extent to which his off-field actions reflect on himself as well as his club. And while his on-field talent is undoubted, you’d be hard-pressed to remember the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi making similar headlines when they were his age. Someone needs to tell him now that he’s gotten his transfer, that it’s time to shut up, put your head down and start acting like a professional or he could end easily end up on the considerably long list of young European soccer talents that failed to live up to their big transfers and eventually faded into obscurity.
While it seems as though everyone got what they wanted with this transfer, it’s Liverpool that’s coming away from this one with its reputation damaged. Sure, the Anfield club got its money, but it also let Raheem Sterling get his way while carrying the club’s name through the mud on his way out. Worse, instead of sending him to a big club abroad, “Losing him to City … losing him within the same league ... that smacks of hierarchy. That smacks of feeder club. That smacks of Tottenham,” says Thomas.
It absolutely does. Unless, of course, coach Brendan Rodgers has learned from his mistake from selling Suarez last summer and actually spends the money wisely this time. If not, you can be sure that this will be his last shot at the summer transfer window.