Liverpool unveiled their new home kit for the 2015-2016 season last week and the usual fanfare followed, as it does every year at the unveiling of a new kit.
But one fan stole the show as he heckled beleaguered forward Raheem Sterling by saying: “Make sure we see you in it next season.”
The statement is fairly harmless in that it’s simply a fan letting his emotions get the best of him, but it reveals much of the unraveling narrative that is developing in this ongoing contract saga.
Never Ending Contract Talks
It’s hard to keep up with all the developments in this story. Contract negotiations have been going on for what seems to be an eternity.
Over the last two seasons Sterling has emerged from a academy prospect to a full fledge first-team regular.
The 20-year-old is almost a guaranteed starter for Liverpool. However, his contract does not reflect his importance on the pitch. Sterling is still on his £35,000-a-week wage signed back in 2013 when he was in and out of the academy.
Reports have emerged that the last contract Liverpool offered the young English forward was to pay wages of £100,000-a-week. A clear indication of how Liverpool value the youngster. But, for some reason Sterling didn’t sign.
Rumours started flying that Sterling wanted even more money and was playing hardball with Liverpool to get what, it was thought, was what he wanted.
In an instant the narrative changed. Liverpool was now winning perceptions. Pundits raced to voice their opinion on how Sterling owed Liverpool and how he had wronged his club by not signing on the doted line. The power had swayed so much that Sterling conducted an interview in an attempt to exonerate his decision.
Much to the dismay of the club, Sterling stated that he didn’t want to look like "a money-grabbing 20-year-old” by refusing the contract.
He clarified that he hadn’t signed out of footballing reasons. For a time, it seemed that the interview had helped as the club and its manager – Brendan Rogers – were put under the microscope. What sort of footballing reasons did Sterling have to refuse singing the contract?
Perhaps Sterling feels that he is better served playing in a central attacking role, rather then being cast out to the wing. Perhaps Rogers wants Sterling to be more flexible, by stating that he would continue to use Sterling in a number of positions as the situation called for.
Whatever the case may be, the actions of this single fan show that general perception is still on the side of the club. Sterling and his agent may have to try a different tactic if they want to buy hearts and minds.