Use whatever measuring stick you like; Florentino Perez is a man who gets what he wants, usually when he wants it.
The ruthless Real Madrid chief has carved a reputation for himself over the course of his tenure at the helm of the La Liga giants for being the most dominant figure in the European transfer markets, and his willingness to part with eye-watering sums of money has been evidenced virtually every summer that he’s been in the job.
This year’s target was James Rodriguez, determined following his incredible World Cup. Monaco put up little in the way of a defence once £63million was wafted under their noses. Last summer it was Gareth Bale who was the apple of his eye and, through Daniel Levy’s dogged resistance to a sale, £85million was the eventual fee required. Two players, £148million and one hell of a statement of intent.
That’s why Liverpool fans should be more than just a little unsettled at the rumours suggesting Raheem Sterling is sitting on the radar at Madrid, with chiefs keen to keep an eye on his development this year. The youngster has emerged as a player of serious potential for the future and, whilst he lacks the ‘star status’ needed to be realistically considered a soon-to-be Galactico, that can be remedied before the season is out.
The general consensus in Spain is that Carlo Ancelotti could well move for Sterling at the end of this campaign, and perhaps capture his signature whilst it remains available for a figure sub-£50million. The looming threat of an offer has been enough to force Brendan Rodgers to publicly deny that it’s feasibility, thus allowing us to interpret that it is indeed, at least to some degree, something he has given thought to.
And why not? Sterling’s form over the past 12 months has done little to deter the notion that he will one-day be a world-class player, and for once it would appear Madrid are keen to invest their interest in a product who can grow rather than one who has already established themselves and therefore has a hearty valuation hovering over their head.
Of course the Anfield faithful will be naturally cautious over the sleeping giant that Madrid, in this instance, represent. What they should be more worried about however is the input, or better put lack of, that Rodgers will have regarding his sale.
The Northern Irishman sees Sterling as a vital nucleus in his Liverpool side of the future. That theory is backed up by the faith he has placed in the youngster since the beginning of last term, and the fact that even though over £100million was spent this summer, Sterling remains the lynchpin of his attacking unit.
Yet he will have little say over whether or not the England international makes a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, particularly if the components of a deal align in a way similar to the way they did when the rumours first began to imply Bale would be leaving Tottenham last year.
First and foremost there’s the pull of cashing in on a homegrown asset for a handsome return which, though destined to upset supporters, will be a rosy proposition when put to the individuals in the upper echelons at Anfield. Big-money transfers are always hard to resist, regardless of the importance of the player in question, and the pressure Perez usually applies in order to ensure he gets his way has a positive track record.
Then there’s Sterling himself, who would have some serious thinking to do if the opportunity to move to Madrid at his tender age fell into his lap. The 19-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom at Liverpool, but there’s no place quite like Los Blancos when it comes to soothing one’s ego or realising one’s dreams of playing for a club bathed in a rich history of success.
The Reds have nurtured him and given him opportunities that few players get until they’re firmly in their twenties, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s switch from Manchester United to the Bernabeu in 2009 tells you all you need to know about the allure The Meringues still possess.
Sterling has quickly fashioned himself as Liverpool’s go-to-guy in the absence of Luis Suarez, and as such his aspirations will follow suit. In short, he’s not going to hesitate if Madrid coming knocking following another trophy-less season with the Reds.
Where he’ll fit in with Los Blancos is a point rendered virtually obsolete when Madrid’s recent transfer history is factored in. Whereas it’s common-place for clubs to buy in positions that need filling, and to tread carefully around introducing stars into the fold when big-name players already occupy their desired roles, at Madrid the emphasis is a little different.
Take Rodriguez’s arrival when Angel Di Maria was at his peak, or Toni Kroos’s purchase when Xabi Alonso still had so much to offer. If Ancelotti or Perez wants Sterling, they will find room for him.
As a result Liverpool fans shouldn’t throw their weight heavily behind the optimistic approach that Sterling’s move to Madrid will be scuppered before it gets a chance to pick up speed.
The sale of Suarez proved that the Reds are firm believers in the ‘every man has his price’ mantra, and if Sterling has ambition to match his talent then the move might be one that Rodgers finds impossible to block, in spite of his best efforts.