The sterling saga has finally been drawn to a close. For £49m, a British record I hasten to add, Raheem Sterling has left Liverpool for rivals Manchester City. But is he really worth that much? And does this make Liverpool worse off?
Liverpool have lost one of their most talented players. There is simply no questioning that. Though his performances this season hardly compare with the class he showed the year before, Sterling is nevertheless one of the most talented prospects in world football and would be missed by most teams in Europe, if not all. But that word prospect is key to this discussion. Sterling was in the youth team only 3 years back. So why has it become the norm for clubs to spend just as much on potential stars as they do on proven ones. And if Manchester City are basing their valuation of him on evidence, has Sterling proved himself? With only 11 goals to his name in 52 appearances, the statistics suggest otherwise.
But In order to really understand Sterling’s value, we must delve back into the big young signings of the past. One player that comes to mind immediately is Mario Gotze. Before signing for Bayern Munich in 2013, Gotze shared similar statistics to that of Sterling. They both broke into the first team at the same age and were both sold at the age of 20. Their statistics are rather alike to, with Gotze having scored 31 goals in 116 games for Borussia Dortmund and Sterling scoring 23 goals in 129 games for Liverpool. However, there is one significant difference between these two world class players: the price they were sold for. Gotze was bought for £32m in 2013, 2 years before Sterling’s departure. When Gotze was sold to Bayern Munich, he was as good, if not better than the player Sterling is now. Agree or disagree, it would be wrong to suggest that Sterling is £17m more valuable than what Gotze was at the age of 20.
So why is it that Sterling is so costly? Is it because he is English? Were Manchester City simply hard done by? Maybe they made their desire for the player so obvious that Rodgers teased Pellegrini into an outrageous £49m bid. Or maybe Manchester City have so much money that they don’t really care about spending the extra millions. One thing we do know is that Liverpool rejected a £40m offer so Liverpool must value the star nearer the £50m mark. Whatever the reason, it seems as though Manchester City have overspent by at least £10m. Yes, inflation has risen since 2011 and even since 2013, and players do cost more than ever, but is Sterling worth nearly £20m more than what Gotze was 2 years ago? After a few bright sparks for England and just one genuinely solid season at Liverpool, some two seasons ago now, it seems almost disrespectful to put Sterling in the same bracket as Gotze.
However, whilst this debate will go on, one thing is for sure: Liverpool have bagged a great deal out of Sterling and not just due to the the massive £50m payout. Had the saga not been dragged out so long, the loss of Sterling would have been seen as a travesty for Liverpool FC and fans alike. But unlike David De Gea who is on the brink of leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid it appears, Sterling has behaved in such a manner that his departure seems all the more beneficial for Liverpool. From declining to go on their pre season tour to calling in sick for training, 20 year old Sterling was making a mockery out of the club and Liverpool FC should be happy to see the back of him.
Furthermore, throughout all of this saga, Liverpool have somehow managed to add James Milner to the squad without paying a penny. Importantly, whilst Liverpool fans will question why Sterling’s replacement comes in the form of a rather consistently average winger, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the club. Though not the most exciting winger in the Premier League, Milner will bring a consistency on the flanks that they haven’t had for years. Further, with Manchester City having bought the player for £26m back in 2011, this can only be seen as a success story for Rodgers.
Regarding the £50m, Liverpool are now able to spend freely and build on the squad rather than cause tensions amongst its members. They have already bought two world class centre forwards in Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. This can only be seen as another smart bit of business by Rodgers, particularly after Sturridge’s injury-plagued season last year which saw him make only 17 appearances in all competitions.
As for the state of the transfer market, however, this deal has exemplified the cost of young talent at present and when looking at the transfer gossip surrounding Harry Kane and Paul Pogba to name but a few, it seems as though this problem is only going to worsen over time. For young talents, the added pressure of being bought for such ludicrous amounts may ruin their careers entirely, as was the case with Andy Carroll. In Sterling’s case, we shall just have to wait and see.