Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling finds himself currently in the middle of protracted transfer and contract speculation, with some corners perceiving the 20-year-old as greedy.
The money paid to footballers is extortionate, and it is difficult to understand how they can be seen to demand such high figures for what is regarded by most as a passion rather than a job.
At times, as fans, it can be difficult to understand but as professionals, for footballers this is a job first and foremost. The tribal nature of supporting a club can often blindfold us from seeing football this way.
Sterling has been castigated for holding out on a new contract, but at the age of 20 and with a short career ahead, which could potentially end tomorrow through injury, who can blame him for wanting to obtain the best deal for himself?
In an interview with the BBC recently Sterling has put across his side of the story, stating that,
“if, at that point in time [this time last year], I was offered a contract, I most definitely would have signed straight away, probably for far less money than is being said now.
“I just think the timing was a bit off.”
Sterling made this statement after saying that he would have accepted the offer put to him of a contract worth under £100,000 at this point last season.
The young Englishman is far from the first Liverpool man to find himself embroiled in some form of contract negotiations, which have made their way into the public limelight.
In the late nineties when Robbie Fowler was in his pomp, a similar story made its way into England’s national papers. There was an element at that time which also accused the Liverpool striker of greed as contract negotiations rumbled on, despite the fact that English football, at that time, was rolling in it more than it had ever before, due to TV deals in particular.
Back then Fowler was considered one of England’s finest young talents but was being perceived by some as greedy.
Remind you of anyone?
In the aforementioned interview, Sterling goes on to say,
“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.”
Sterling has every right to proclaim a statement such as this at his age, when his future is far from determined, and in a career which may realistically only last another ten years or so.
Although Fowler’s contract discussions took place in a different era where serious money had only just entered the sphere of English top flight football, similarities with both players can be seen.
In Fowler’s autobiography he mentions that ‘the football always mattered far more’ than the money he was receiving, something Sterling has also stated,
“It’s never been about money. I talk about winning trophies throughout my career. That’s all I talk about.”
Although in football nothing is set in stone, one must take a player’s word in situations such as this. Fowler was a local lad who obviously had a bigger connection to a club like Liverpool, which is enshrined in the very fabric of the city he grew up in.
For Sterling this is clearly not the case. His roots are in London. But it does not mean he has less of a right to demand the best for himself.
A sentence from Fowler’s autobiography explains how he felt at the time, something Sterling can probably, at the moment, attest to.
“I was worried sick that people would believe it all, and think that I was some greedy flash bastard who didn’t give a toss about the football. Of course I was concerned about the money, who wouldn’t be?”
Without claiming to know the ins and outs of Sterling’s personality type, to claim that it is all about the money for him is evidently untrue. To make it to the level of performance he is at there is a huge amount self-determination needed, and to claim that money is the be-all and end-all of what he is chasing is very difficult to believe.
Sterling should get the best deal he can, at whatever club he feels best suit his ambitions.
Life is short, and a football career is only a fraction of it.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena