Given the demands Brendan Rodgers is facing as Liverpool manager he must be feeling rather cheesed off by the fact that the club’s status as one of football’s super powers seems to start and end in the stands.
The outfit's elite figures expect the Northern Irishman to push for the Premier League title, the fans clamour to see their side competing for major silverware each year and yet that expectancy doesn’t appear to translate to the players on the pitch.
Liverpool losing stars
With the exception of one or two individuals over the past few years - Steven Gerrard being the standout example - the select crop of players who have fallen into the world-class category at some point of another in their careers have all elected to leave Anfield in search of bigger and better. Xabi Alonso did it, Fernando Torres did it, Luis Suarez did it little more than eight months ago and, if they’re not careful, Raheem Sterling might well do the very same.
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Ask any former Liverpool hero and he’ll likely recite the same praise-ridden eulogy concerning the Liverpool fan base. Even Suarez, who did more than enough to warrant being shunned at times during his spell on Merseyside, would be prone to attesting to the love and support offered from the Anfield faithful.
Lack of major trophies
And yet sooner or later players of such quality have to seek pastures new in a bid to ensure their trophy cabinet is left looking as impressive as their reputations and statistics. On such occasions it has become protocol for Liverpool to give up the idea of keeping the players in question and cashing in on them, often for phenomenal fees. That in itself is a dangerous precedent to have set.
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Particularly so when it’s considered that England’s brightest young flame, Sterling, looks to be heading toward a summer wherein he will be the apple of more than one rival’s eye. Real Madrid want to make him their next Galactico, Chelsea could offer him the chance to partner up with Eden Hazard and even Manchester City are hovering around like a bird of prey, waiting for the faintest whiff of intent from his owners.
As profitable as it was at the time the Reds learned just how much must be taken into account before such deals become reality when they let Suarez leave for Barcelona. £75 million significantly bolstered Anfield coffers and gave Brendan Rodgers the ability to make a raft of signings in preparation for a campaign in which he was supposed to be challenging for the title.
The Liverpool Suarez left behind though was ill-equipped in the aftermath of his departure, and it’s taken them the best part of the season to find their rhythm now that the Uruguayan isn’t there to bail them out of trouble.
A bold conclusion, but one that Rodgers simply has to consider if there’s any fibre in his bones leaning towards the theory that letting Sterling go would be a setback the club could cope with.
Though still far from the finished product the 20-year-old is rapidly becoming the Kop’s go-to-guy. His pace and direct running has become a flamboyant staple of Liverpool’s game moving forward and, as he proved earlier on this season, he’s becoming increasingly efficient in front of goal.
It’s difficult not to see shades of the Premier League’s leading man Eden Hazard in his game, and the fruits of Chelsea’s patience in that particular endeavour are there for all to enjoy.
All though is not well concerning Sterling and Liverpool. Contract talks have been in the pipeline for a long while and yet there is no definitive end in sight at the moment. Reports earlier this week suggested the Jamaican-born winger would turn down a monumental offer of £180,000-a-week in order to hold off until the summer before committing his future to Anfield, though fans have every right to post questions as to where such stubbornness may lead.
They can keep him
There’s conclusions to be drawn between the situation facing Sterling and the one that Liverpool went through last year with Suarez, for sure. The crucial difference between the two scenarios is that by the time the latter left he was practically ready to force an exit. Barcelona could promise him the world in trophies and Liverpool, as bitter a pill as it is for Reds fans to swallow, simply couldn’t.
At this stage in Sterling’s career fortunately that shouldn’t prove much of a catalyst in terms of instigating an acrimonious exit, which gives Liverpool far more strength in their hand. Whilst his development remains at an integral stage the pint-sized playmaker isn’t likely to push for a departure so long as the club give him what he wants, and whilst I’m not all for player power, in this case a little bit of bad could do a world of good.
Keeping him at all costs
Those worried about setting such precedents, by that I mean shifting heaven and earth to accommodate Sterling, can relinquish their fears without too much effort. Doing so for players of such incredible natural ability doesn’t open the floodgates for every Tom, Dick or Harry to demand more, and even if they do nine times out of ten they’re not good enough to be irreplaceable. Sterling is.
There’s no telling how much compensation Liverpool might be offered to part ways with their favourite son this summer, but in any case Rodgers should remain focused on the essential end goal; getting the former QPR youngster to pledge his future to a side who need him if they harbour any illusions of grandeur in the near future.
Liverpool found out the hard way that all the money in the world doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. They’d be wise to heed last summer’s lesson.
Reds fans, do you think there can be life at Anfield after Sterling if he leaves this summer? Let us know your thoughts in his situation in the comments box below.
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