Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling has confirmed he turned down the club's offer of a bumper new £100,000-a-week contract, in an interview with BBC Sport that was neither arranged nor sanctioned by the Reds themselves.
Sterling was offered fresh terms in February, but feels those negotiations came at the wrong time. The 20-year-old is adamant that his decision to wait until this summer is not motivated by money, because he would have gladly signed that deal if it was put to him 12 months ago when Liverpool were very much in the Premier League title chase.
Liverpool and their talented England international are now in the midst of a cooling-off period in terms of negotiations, but Sterling's decision to go public with his stance amid reported interest from Arsenal, Manchester City and Real Madrid has put his manager Brendan Rodgers in a very awkward position.
Sterling gives frank interview
Sterling was clearly not prepared to let accusations he's a "money grabber" go without a response, declaring: "It's not about the money at all," the England forward said.
"It's never been about money. I talk about winning trophies throughout my career. That's all I talk about.
"I don't talk about how many cars I'm going to drive, how many houses I've got. I just purely want to be the best I can be. I don't want to be perceived as a money-grabbing 20-year-old. I just want to be seen as a kid who loves to play football and to do the best for the team."
Perhaps the portion of the exchange that will most annoy Reds fans is Sterling placing the blame on Liverpool for his long-term future remaining uncertain, because they didn't put contract talks on the table last season when the time was right.
Sterling, who also conceded that rumours of strong interest from Arsenal are "quite flattering", believe he would have signed up for less money while Liverpool were on a whirlwind run of form last year, but now things are very different.
"If, at that point in time, I was offered a contract, I most definitely would have signed straight away, probably for far less money than being said now," he said. "I just think the timing was a bit off.
"I try to kill it off, but I don't think the public can see it that way. I think they just see it as this 20-year-old boy being greedy.
"I just want to take the time to think about what I've achieved in my career so far, where I need to go and what I need to do to get better as a player."
Rodgers must respond
The timing of Sterling's sit-down with the BBC means Rodgers will be forced to address the situation in his pre-match press conference for Saturday's showdown with Arsenal, which is set for later today.
Rodgers has previously insisted the England international was offered an "incredible deal" to extend his contract at Anfield, which is due to expire in 2017.
Sterling is acutely aware of his importance to Rodgers and believes he's worth more triple his current £35,000-a-week deal, but it remains to be seen how the Reds boss responds to hardball from the youngster in terms of team selection and a fresh round of contract talks at the end of the season.
Liverpool fans, what do you think of Sterling's latest comments? Should the Reds back down and sort out his future, or refuse to meet his demands? Let us know in the comment box below!
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