Raheem Sterling has reportedly been offered an “incredible” new contract by Liverpool but Brendan Rodgers has been keen to explain that the forward will not get “too much too soon” to make sure he continues to work hard.
But is that necessarily the best approach to take when discussing the wages of arguable Liverpool’s most influential player this season?
With Liverpool struggling to hit the heights of last season’s title near miss Raheem Sterling has been one of the few promising sparks and Rodgers could end up alienating the youngster if he continues to stand his ground.
Sterling’s current contract, which expires in 2018, allegedly has the 20-year-old on a £40,000-per-week deal – a figure which is startlingly low in the climate of modern football.
A pay-rise for the starlet is definitely more than deserved but Rodgers’ description of a new £70,000 deal as “incredible” seems something of an exaggeration when you consider that Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Glen Johnson, of all people, earn more than that.
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Of course his young age is always going to factor into that department but you have to consider Liverpool’s dependence on Sterling and then add in to the mix that we’re talking about a player who has drawn interest from Real Madrid.
When you look at that the top five earners at Anfield – Steven Gerrard (£150,000), Martin Skrtel (£90,000), Glen Johnson (£90,000), Mario Balotelli (£80,000) and Daniel Sturridge (£80,000) – you could hardly make a case for any of them having been as influential for the Reds this year than Sterling.
The 20-year-old has been involved in 10 of Liverpool’s Premier League goals this season scoring five and making five, a percentage of 30% - and that’s including missing a game for a holiday.
Jordan Henderson takes up the second spot having scored two and made six. Liverpool’s 2014/15 campaign has been one of its toughest in recent years and it’s a time when the influential players need to stand up and be counted for. Nobody in Anfield’s ranks has done that more convincingly than Raheem Sterling.
So it is no wonder that rumours are now circulating that the most recent contract offer has been rejected. Sterling’s agents know that they can negotiate for significantly higher wages given his current worth to the club; and of course interest from big European teams helps their cause too.
They know that Liverpool cannot afford to let Sterling go. Steven Gerrard’s summer departure leaves a massive whole to be filled at Anfield and while I don’t expect Sterling to be the next leader (that spot looks likely reserved for Jordan Henderson) his pace, initiative and penetration will be needed more than ever next campaign.
But the advantage of that departure – and the likely exit of Glen Johnson – is that the Reds will have plenty of space on the wage bill to bring in big players in the summer because while Sterling deserves to be amongst the best paid at Liverpool he will struggle if he is expected to carry the team at just 20 years of age.
If the Reds don’t bring in new talent over the summer the pressure on the shoulders of the young Englishman will be immense next season.
That is something that Brendan Rodgers is clearly wary of given his decision to allow Sterling to take a vacation to Jamaica in January. And while most people mocked him for being “too tired” to play for England late in 2014 the truth is that if he doesn’t think
he can play at his best chances are he won’t.
These are the cold hard truths that come with management; sometimes the mental problems of your team become your problem to solve.
Rodgers’ resolve to make Sterling work for his stellar wage rise is admirable in a world where football is increasingly becoming a swelling money monster. But Sterling has already given so much to the Liverpool cause over the last two seasons and may start looking elsewhere if he cannot reap the rewards of that at Anfield.