Following the two damaging defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal, there’s been a lot said regarding Liverpool’s current state of affairs.
But the analyses seem to focus on Liverpool’s matters off the pitch than on it. First, would be the Raheem Sterling situation, with the young forward turning down a £100,000-a-week contract, and then saying the rejection wasn’t for financial but footballing reasons.
It does seem a tad strange to hear that from a player now considered an integral part of Liverpool’s starting XI. What footballing reasons could there be?
Is it unhappiness over the style of play, frustration with the results, or something else?
Alan Shearer happened to point out on Match of the Day, the fact that both Steven Gerrard and Sterling happened to claim that they would’ve signed new contracts had Liverpool offered them both a deal earlier than they did.
Both however wanted new deals with a significant amount of time already left on their contracts.
One’s considered a modern day legend, not just for Liverpool, but as an English footballer in general and the other has quickly gone from being a youngster to a feared forward in a matter of 2-3 years.
The fans love them both and celebrate with extra vigour when they end up scoring for the team.
How much more wanted do they need to feel? Shearer still points this out as a shortcoming on the club’s part, not scrambling to renew something that isn’t even old yet.
Former Liverpool legend Ray Houghton now points out on the BBC that the fault lies with Liverpool’s wage structure. Daniel Sturridge’s £150,000-a-week salary is cited in a negative voice, because that’s much lower compared to what star players get paid by the other giants of the English game.
At some point, there will be the need however, to pause and view the entire situation with reason.
There’s a difference between appreciating someone’s value, and pandering to popular demands that are driven by others setting the trend in outrageous figures paid weekly to people doing what they, in their own words, love to do.
It also has to be said, amidst all the opinions leaning towards Liverpool’s timing of offering new contracts being the one to blame, Philippe Coutinho was also offered a new contract mid-season, one which he signed without any fuss whatsoever. So it’s not as though there aren’t players who just put pen to paer and get on with it.
Liverpool’s owners trying to maintain some kind of financial balance, perhaps in the current context of attracting top players is negative. Because, as Houghton rightly points out, the top players don’t want to go to Liverpool when someone like Manchester United, or Chelsea, or Manchester City can, and do offer twice, even thrice as much.
This also happens to be indicative of the greed of modern day top-tier players, most of whom let their agents do most of the talking when dealing with hierarchy of the club they play for.
And agents, like in any financial circle, are all about squeezing out as much as they can, to prove their own worth.
But can you really fault the club for not wanting to continue enabling greed? When does the point arrive when certain principles are important as well, irrespective of whether the best in the business want to come to Liverpool or not?
It may not be good for team spirit either if you have a handful of players who measure their commitment to the side by the amount of money they get paid at the end of each week.
Perhaps Raheem Sterling does have a football-related reason to turn down the latest contract offer. But that’s a view taken from a very fair-minded approach to the situation.
A slightly more cynical and veteran view, based on precedents set over the last 15 years or so in English football would suggest that the rejection was suggested by Sterling’s representatives who want to wait for the summer.
Offers will surely come in from other big clubs, much richer clubs, and based on those offers, they’ll have a much stronger bargaining chip to force Liverpool to offer over £200,000-a-week or something to that effect.
People in other professions rarely have the capability to drive such hard bargains with their employers. Those who do, are often considered greedy and to a certain extent, even immoral.
Bankers are hated by nearly everyone today, and those who don’t despise them, seem to be the ones paid over-the-top sums themselves, and they’re in turn are also despised by many.
Perhaps the Liverpool youngster doesn’t have those intentions, but if his representatives didn’t, then they wouldn’t be considered very good at their job.
How much of this can be blamed on Liverpool’s owners and those responsible for handling player contracts? The opinions will vary across the board.
Of course, they could’ve moved last year and perhaps tied him in for another 5 years, despite 2 years still to go on the current one.
That however, also paves the way for the next round of negotiations being demanded with 3 years still to go. The time after that, 4 years still to go.
It’s headed in a direction where a new contract will have to be backed up by yet another contract, all in the name of proving how much the club values the player?
At some point, demanding the renewal of contracts well before they’re to expire anyway, it will be seen as ridiculous.
For now though, it seems as though football and those working in football circles, especially English football, seem to have openly and seamlessly accepted that the rules have to work completely differently for footballers than they would for anyone else in any other profession.
And the blame can never be shouldered by the player or their representatives.
Even if they can’t see value in being offered more money, than what most of the fans watching and cheering them on, will be lucky to earn in two lifetimes.