Why Sterling can leave Liverpool any time he wants

by Tony Attwood

Selling players who we would rather like to keep is something that Arsenal became fairly familiar with during the years of paying for the new stadium.  However that Liverpool, who have only just embarked on upgrading Anfield for a cost of around £114m, adding 8000 new seats, and yet are embroiled in such painful situations suggests a discontent a little deeper.

Of course none of us will know exactly what is going on with the likes of Raheem Sterling but the fact that he and his manager Brendan Rodgers are at loggerheads seems fairly clear.

The problem however also seems to have been exacerbated with the statement (or maybe alleged statement) by Brendan Rodgers that Sterling will stay put at Liverpool even if he refuses to sign a new contract.   This would mean that Liverpool would lose out on the transfer fee, and of course ferment discontent in the camp.


Holding onto a player who wants to go, in the last year of his contract is a difficult matter, and I suspect Mr Rodgers has not actually listened to any legal advice on the matter (or if he has then suggests Liverpool needs a new legal department as well as a new set of players).  Indeed his statement seems to have all the hallmarks of the work of the Liverpool’s principal owner John Henry, who had a history of making flamboyant statements during and after the Suarez vapour transfer to Arsenal.

Rodgers has regularly said Sterling will not be sold this summer despite his rejection of a new contract.  Then he upped the game by saying the player will stay on £35,000-a-week for the rest of his period with Liverpool, rather than sell him if there is no agreement.

Of course the player himself could resolve this by signing, but if he doesn’t, he will be able to turn to the EU wide ruling of 30 January 2008 in which the Court of Arbitration in Sport issued a landmark judgement meaning that players cannot be held to their contracts for more than three years.  (As a side note, for players who sign their contracts after their 28th birthday that comes down to two years).

This was a factor in the transfer of Cesc Fabregas so that he could be re-united with his DNA, and with Robin Van Persie.  As Tony Higgins of Fifpro, the European players’ union said at the time, “The Webster case allows players, after a set period of time and if they so wish, to decide who their future employer will be. We now have a degree of certainty about what the value in question will be. Clubs have to re-evaluate their strategies in dealing with players on long-term contracts. If they are on four- or five-year contracts and fall into the relevant age bracket, clubs may now have to renegotiate after two years.”

Liverpool FC can’t be so silly as to not know this, any more than John Henry didn’t know about the buy out clause in Suarez’ contract (as he fully admitted in February 2014), so most of what we are seeing must be bluff, and Sterling knows perfectly well this is so.

The reason Liverpool are playing the game this way is twofold.  One because John Henry likes the Big Man style (as revealed in his openness about “tricking” Arsenal by lying to the media) and the other because they believed that Sterling would not want to lose out on the extra money they are offering him.

Given that Sterling has rejected £65,000-a-week pay rise offer that was made after he turned down the original offers, this means Sterling has lost £1m in money, and Liverpool have saved £1m in cash that would otherwise have gone 50% to the player and 50% to Revenue and Customs.

But that is past, and Sterling could easily force the issue this summer by invoking the CAS ruling.  That would not only be ok for him, but also be a disaster for Liverpool who would lose a player they want to keep, and show to the footballing world that they really don’t know what the law in Europe says these days.

“We’ve made our position clear from the beginning and the owners are very much supportive of that. Raheem won’t be going anywhere this summer, even if there’s not a deal agreed,” said the manager – which actually means, “even if we are going to refuse to abide by EU law.”  Liverpool do lots of funny stuff, but this one seems unlikely.

Rodgers argument that, “We’ll just be reinforcing our stance that’s been in place all along – that this is the best club for him at this moment where he’s got the opportunity to play and to fight and be competitive,” doesn’t hold too much water given not just the recent decline in their playing ability but also the wild claims that have been made about Liverpool’s progress of late.

Rodgers also made a lot of the fact that he has had his player around to his house for a chat.  That (getting the player round to one’s house) may or may not be a good move, but revealing what was talked about may not have been the best ploy.  Comments such as, “It’s not just football; it’s parenting as well, helping him and making sure everything is all right outside of his football,” suggest that the player is looking for a father figure, and whether that is true or not, it may not be something he wants to have aired in public.

It is always tempting to think that Liverpools problem is the signings – and to some extent that is true, but it is also the image that the club is developing through seeming to allow people like Rodgers and Henry to say what they like, without thought of the consequences that is doing the most damage.  Agents know about the CAS rulings and European Law, just as they knew that Henry lied about Suarez contract – and they advise their clients accordingly.  It is not hard to see why Liverpool can’t always buy the player they want.

Indeed the consequences of Henry’s admission that he lied and lied over the Suarez affair are still being felt in the media, and Rodgers may well find that making statements which result in the media running statements like “Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool aiming higher than 4th” as recently as March 16 this year (as ESPN did), or “I think this year we’re up there again among the top two or three” as Sky Sports had him saying, can be a hostage to fortune.

And while you may know that I am not a great believer in what the press has to say on such matters, there is an element of media control that a club can engage in to avoid such gems as,”Liverpool aim for ‘marquee’ transfers” as the Mirror reported a couple of days back.  The problem is that last season’s “marquee” transfers did not impress many people and saw Liverpool slip back in the league.

As Arsenal supporters we know exactly what the abuse of Chelsea, Man C and Man U fans feels like as they comment, alongside their pals in the aaa on the long wait for another title since the Unbeaten Season, but with Liverpool the wait is longer – it is now 25 years since they won the league.   For a club whose past was all about winning the league all the time, that must hurt.

What Liverpool have to do, in my personal opinion, is stop talking about the past, and reform.  Reform meaning, be realistic about what the European laws of sport actually says, while recruiting highly talented young players – some of whom will stay and do well, some of whom will be sold for a profit, some of whom will sadly not make it.

This is a totally different culture from the culture of excuses that some clubs seem to get involved in.  And it is a culture that makes signing players even harder than it might otherwise have been.

The problem is that when players and their agents look at places that they might get a job, Liverpool’s recent performances in terms of player recruitment and development don’t give much of a warm feeling.

Every club makes mistakes, and in writing up Arsenal’s history through the Anniversary Files I know that better than most.  Making mistakes is not the point – it is the making of mistakes over and over again.  All clubs have transfer disasters.  But you need some real winners too to retain your credibility.

Oyvind Leonhardsen was indeed not the ‘last piece of the jigsaw’, and El Hadji Diouf did not turn Liverpool into champions.  Nor did £35 million for Andy Carroll in 2011.  As for Mario Balotelli…

But as I say, Arsenal don’t get it perfectly right.  For every Bergkamp, Henry, Ozil and Sanchez there are many players who simply did not live up to expectations.  The difference is that they were not all made a hostage to fortune, and the club didn’t engage in the same PR activities that Liverpool do.

The issue is not just that that Liverpool’s transfer record in recent years is poor, for a club to leap into the top four the club needs luck and a brilliant player – as Liverpool themselves proved with Suarez, who for all his moral failings, is a brilliant player.  But also it is laughable, as when the club went public on absolutely not signing Balotelli and then signing Balotelli.

But the greatest problem is that if John Henry searches for who is to blame for this situation at Liverpool and then decides to sack them, he would (if he were man enough) have to sack himself.

On the other hand if Rodgers were sacked then, as the Telegraph amusingly put it Liverpool would develop “a new personality issuing uplifting quotes that immediately prompt ridiculously premature comparisons with Bill Shankly. It all looks promising for a while.  Then word filters through that the new man thinks all the players he’s been left are hopeless. Before you know you’re back in the realms of five-year plans.

“Then three years pass, those initial encouraging signs and uplifting victories have been forgotten and a sexy name from abroad (who probably has no wish to join, anyway) is available. A dodgy away defeat in Hull or some relegation-haunted venue in 2018 is presented as the tipping point and the wheel turns again.”

Of course when the Telegraph says, “At few other clubs do you go from King to court jester in the space of three games,” they and the rest of the media must take part of the blame.  But Liverpool have to do the same, for being a club which, as the Telegraph concluded “feeds narcissism and then accuses those they instantly transformed into Gods of thinking too highly of themselves.”

Today’s Anniversaries

2 May 1970: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 0 ended the league season with Arsenal a disappointing 12th.  Extraordinarily, one year and one day later the game was repeated, and the score was repeated, except in reverse as this time Arsenal won the match and the league, and then at the end of the week, the FA Cup.

2 May 1992 Ian Wright hat trick (two in the 90th minute) in the last game in front of the old North Bank.  Arsenal won 5-1 against Southampton as Wright beat Lineker to the top scorer spot with 24 league goals.  A hardy group stayed on after the match chanting “We’re here to save the North Bank,” as stewards left them to slowly drift away



40 Replies to “Why Sterling can leave Liverpool any time he wants”

  1. I don’t know if Liverpool have a fifth column, but if they do they could hardly be impressed with the whole Strerling situation from when he said he wouldn’t sign ( not even for £100.000 per week ), and might even be glad to see him go. I just hope he doesn’t turn up at Arsenal as he seems a particularly unpleasant person; the complete antithesis of Walcott who’s regularly reported to be going in the opposite direction.

  2. You say a lot here without really saying much. It’s clear that the aim of it is to just dig at Liverpool and why you are so interested In Sterling is beyond me because if he leaves Liverpool it will be for a much bigger club than Arsenal, providing the bigger clubs are interested that is. What amuses me most is you referring to Liverpool thinking they are bigger than they are. This comes from a fan of a club which believes it is an elite club and yet have never once been champions of Europe. Liverpool have declined significantly over the past two decades but even then, the only reason Arsenal have more pull to players is due to the London location. With regards to Sterling, losing him would not take anything at all away from Liverpools side, he has offered nothing since Christmas anyway. £30m or more and 99% ofLiverpool fans would bite your hand off. Although, as you quite rightly point out (the one thing you did get right), Liverpool are likely to waste any cash they receive on poor transfers.

  3. Steeling has over 2 and a half years left on his contract. Probably best you do research before passing comment on matters.

  4. Hilarious article. Rather than worrying about other clubs why don’t you go and ask Wenger how his 5 year plan – announced 11 years ago – to doimnate Eutope is going. And then practice your booing ready for the next time the boo brigade aren’t 5 up after half an hour. “Thanks for the memories Arsene – it’s time to say goodbye.”

  5. Regardless of some EU law, Sterling is a product of academy so whoever he “chooses” to go to Liverpool will still get a good-ish sum for him. maybe he just needs to bite someone?

  6. Nice article, Sterling has two years left on his deal this summer, not one.
    Also there’s an unwritten rule omongst PL clubs that they wont be apart to such dealings

  7. Arsenal would have known all about Sterling before he went to Liverpool, but chose to pass. Whatever that reason, I would imagine it still applies, from what I heard from a QPR fan, I would be very surprised to see Sterling in an Arsenal shirt, at least not for a few more years yet, talented though he clearly is.
    As for Liverpool, a giant of a club, but the last few seasons suggest they need to take a very close look at their PR, the ill advised shirts supporting Suarez, the cringeworthy fly on the wall show, the henry bragging, Suarez, Balotelli, now the comments over Sterling. Think Mr Henry could be one of the problems but Rogers…..and formerly, Dalglish in his recent spell should have done more at times to keep their egos in check. Maybe John henry might want to take a closer look at our much maligned “Silent” owner

  8. Great article, except for one fundamental error – Sterling has TWO years left on his contract duh

  9. I thought Sterling had 2 years left on his contract – or am I missing something?

  10. This stuff about Sterling was discussed a few weeks ago on another site, and I learned some interesting, but pretty damning stuff there concerning Liverpool’s owners. Apparently they have a history of putting out defaming, damning, and even dangerous articles in the media whenever they have a contract situation with any of their employees.



    This should put in perspective all those recent stories about Sterling coming out in the media (greedy, druggie, smoker etc), and Rodgers’ comments on Sterling then and more recently. This is how FSG seemingly operate.

    Oh, and while I am unclear on how it works, FSG also managed to get Red Sox on the cheap (see at the end of the first article) and we know that they got Liverpool through the banks forcing a sale on the previous owners, who claimed they lost up to a billion in that deal.

  11. I think Sterling is just being badly advised, another case of an agent leeching money out of football for doing SFA for the game. Joe, I thought what Tony’s source is saying was that the EU ruling means that if players ‘are on four- or five-year contracts and fall into the relevant age bracket, clubs may now have to renegotiate after two years.”

    I have no liking for Liverpool at all but am increasingly disturbed by young men on good money who agitate for even more. You can’t spend even half of £35k a week unless you are wasting it on unnecessary luxuries. There are one million British people using food banks, 3.5 million children are living in poverty, and thousands of people have just died in Nepal because an earthquake ripped through a poor country with weak infrastructure. And Sterling (et al) demand wages in excess of £100m A WEEK.

    Its disgusting

  12. Don’t be daft.

    Where would Sterling fit in at Arsenal.

    And who’s place would he take if he were to be first choice.

  13. Liverpool will sell to none English club.he is trouble with is off field actions and run ins with law.

  14. According to transfermarkt sterling is contracted to the summer 2017.

  15. I have not seen Sterling demand more wages than £100,000. I got the impression he has seen where Liverpool is going, nowhere, and wants to leave, especially to play CL football. From the article above, we have seen where Liverpool are, what they are doing and how they are doing it, I’m sure Sterling, for all his young years can see that too, perhaps even better being on the inside.

    Concerning contracts.
    Am i the only one that think most rules are completely senseless? Why in the world do we have contracts if people are not bound to honour them? Of course if the two contract bound parties agree it is in the best interest of both parties, it can be annulled, but if there is no agreement on that, one or the other party usually will lose out in nullifying the contract(have to pay).

    And Wallcott?
    You also know that what ever is going on in the world does not stop ANYONE from demanding the best wage for their services, and that YOU would do exactly that too?

  16. Nice read Tony…Liverpool as far as I am concerned can continue being a mid-table club for as long as possible – The British Media who find every opportunity to prop this 3 legged club will have lots of egg on face I would say!

    As for Sterling to Arsenal and Walcott the other way – NO WAY!! Mr.Wenger aint daft! Sterling isn’t half the player of Walcott – not in a million years!

  17. You need power only when you want to do something harmful,
    otherwise love is enough to get everything done.
    Charlie Chaplin

  18. I wonder where all the ex Liverpool players are suggesting:

    1) If Sterling wants any chance of winning the Premiership he has to leave.

    2) Liverpool are out of order holding poor Raheem hostage.

    Oh no, it’s only us that are blessed with such despicably disloyal ex’s.

    Isn’t that so: WRIGHT, MERSON, SMITH, ROBSON, Etc. etc.

    I’ve said this before, as much as there’s a lot of things I don’t particularly like about Liverpool, the seemingly boundless loyalty of there fans and ex players alike is not one of them, although I do think it is about to backfire on them.

    Basically, because the media is chock full ex Liverpool players and staunch Liverpool fans, Liverpool can say just about what they like and get away with it.

    Last years Suarez debacle being a case in point. Despite Liverpools owner lying and insulting Arsenal/Wenger it was us that coped ALL the criticism.

    The media love Liverpool and treat them like a National treasure and therefore are for the most part seen as beyond reproach.

    Alas it seems that that latitude afforded them has lead Liverpool to dig themselves a rather big hole that’s beginning to look a bit tricky to get themselves out of, and not only that it seems they are still digging away.

    Eventually the hole they are in, is surely going to collapse in on them, big style.

    That could be sooner rather than later.

  19. When players were leaving us did Arsene tell us he has ‘had a little fireside chat with the player. The player needs a father figure and I am his daddy.’?

    As much as we might like to know what goes on between games its private, for the players only and that is how it should be.

    The machinations that go on and are made public at Liverpool and other clubs serve as fodder to those seeking a platform from which they can base their ignorant prognostications.

    The media has good reason to hate us for we only provide them with ‘good news’.

    The media pundits claim transfer after transfer, disaster after disaster about us and are always wrong.

    When was the last time a an Arsenal transfer claim prediction actually happened?

    Everyone of the transfers in came as a surprise to the media prophets.

    They can speculate about the future of Theo as much as they like, they simply don’t know because the matter is private until it is agreed the that we should be told. In other words Arsene informs us at a press conference or is published on the Arsenal website.

    As the ignorant seem only to understand articles with this type of heading: ”Five things we learnt….”

    I give you five things the English football authorities and the English media refuse to accept.

    1) There is corruption in English football.

    2) Money doesn’t buy everyone the championship.

    3) Splashing the cash on players does not mean it will turn a bad team into a good team.

    4) Constant chopping and changing your manager takes you down the league not up the league.

    5) Great players do not become bad players when joining a new club.

  20. @Blacksheep63
    I can understand your not agreeing with Raheem Sterling demanding a weekly wage in “…excess of £100,000 a week…” afterall how many hard working ordinary people earn that in a week? Not many I dare say. However you will also admit that Sterling has special talent, and he is suitably located in an environment (geographical, cultural etc.) that pays higly for the value of entertainment he delivers on a weekly basis.

    In addition to that, his talents may somewhat be contributing to the number of tickets sold at Liverpool FC home matches, the number of ‘Sterling” branded jerseys sold, the manufacturers of those branded jerseys are assured of regular income from the sales of those branded jerseys so long as he continues to get better on the field of play.

    There are going to be other beneficiaries from a higher wages being paid to Sterling, HRMC in higher taxes for the people of Britain, television stations in higher advert revenue, and larger number of viewers who would like to see the magic of Sterling’s boots. I use Sterling in this response as a generic term for footballers like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alexis Sanchez or even Luiz Suarez and so many others around the footballing world.

    We should not begrudge these players the wages they earn because of the value they deliver on every week that benefit so many others directly and indirectly and for the better.

    We should not connect what happened in Nepal with the artistry of these footballers, neither are they resposible for the world’s many poor people, homeless, starving, war ravaged, Ebola stricken and the like. The world will continue to harbour both the rich and the poor. Even if you gave every one in the world the same resources to start with in life some would end up fantastically rich, some abject poor and others in betweeen because of the many other factors that go into the use of those resources. Taste, attitudes, belief, choice, talent, preferences differ from person to person and so therefore will the outcome we would see with such levelling of resources.

  21. @Bobome I concede your views up to a point but maintain that no one NEEDS that amount of money. I’d tax them much higher so if LFC or anyone else wishes to pay them 100k a week much more of it was redistributed amongst the population. After all who pays for those tickets, shirts and TV subs?

    @Para – you are wrong about me at least. I am highly qualified and on lots of occasions when i could have commanded a higher fee for my service I took what i needed and what i thought was fair, determined by the person paying. I have enough money to live, to eat, to put a nice roof over my head, to drive a car I enjoy, to pay for my football and other interests. You could double my salary and it would make little difference to what I spend in a week

  22. DWS – it is always advisable to take a look at who you are writing to when you send in a comment. The phrase, “Football news from an Arsenal perspective” on this site gives a clue to the answer.

  23. Luke, I can well believe that as you say “why you are so interested In Sterling is beyond me” – but all you have to do is to look at the front of this site – which as I have said before is actually a fairly reasonable thing to do before sending off some comments.

    But to help, the site has the headline, “Football news from an Arsenal perspective”. We do spend quite a bit of time correcting the misunderstandings of the media – just because this time it is about a Liverpool player doesn’t in any way suggesting that anyone involved in Untold thinks Arsenal might want to buy the player.

  24. Lots of comment on 2 years left on Sterling contract – Tony knows that! The post is about 4 & 5 year contracts of young players can be forced into ‘3 year contracts’ because of the CAS ruling. This has effectively forced clubs to renegotiate young players (under 25) every 2 years.

    It is time the CAS rule on agents & the IR get on their case as well. There is a lot of money bleeding out of football into pockets of those that do SFA for the game.

  25. @Luke. Beat you lot in three out of four cup finals mate. Probably would have done so again but that point’ll never be proven as you failed to even make it.

  26. Great read and cleary well researched, we (Arsenal) have experienced this situation far too many times to recount, but rarely with young unfulfilled potential players, usually with lesser knowns who AW has developed into saleable top quality commodities. Totally frustrating for us fans but I think we have turned the corner on that front now, as balancing the books is no longer a pre-requisite for sustainability. I sincerely fear for LFC, not in a ‘give a shit’ kind of way but because they will now have to cope with stadium expansion costs and still try and maintain a challenging team to fund that. At least we embarked on our road with an absolute belter of a team. LFC certainly do not have that starting point. @Rich_Gooner

  27. Interesting, wonder if Liverpool, and Spurs for that matter see a chance to capitalise on Utds general crapness? Seems like LVGS hair dryer on a few players after the Everton game is not having the desired effect. Unlikely, but could they blow a top four place? Wonder if well known appreciator of contemporary bands Mr Klopp is brushing up on Oasis, The Charlatans, Stone Roses and a few others….just in case….

  28. Ok I know, not all of the Charlatans are from Manchester, the late Jon Brooke’s was a midlander and West Brom fan….he would have enjoyed today, but just see them as part of that genre.

  29. @Blacksheep63
    Glad to hear, welcome to the fold.
    I also gave up the climb to “success” at Manager stage when i realised what i had to give up in return, my whole life really. I now am truly satisfied with very little.

  30. “the only reason Arsenal have more pull to players is due to the London location.” I hate to put an even further divide between supporters of different clubs, but a lot of Liverpool fans really do seem to be deluded and have such a false-sense of entitlement. I understand they used to be a huge club, but in footballing terms, that was a long time ago and that is no longer the case.

  31. Although i think i would rather Liverpool get a CL place above Man U, as even then they probably still wont be able to attract top talent and with Man U not in it for a second year in a row, it will get increasingly difficult to lure world class players regardless of how much money they throw at them. Following that there may be a decrease in sponsorship deals, thus leading to a slow decline of the club. One can only hope i guess haha.

  32. I think some morons here mistaken Webster rulings with Bosman rulings. And still have the cheek to act smart and make fun of the author. No wonder AAAs are such a bogus group. Idiots. Why don’t you research first before making statements? Stop wasting comments space and let others make real constructive points.

  33. This joke also reminds me of ‘them’.

    A young ventriloquist is touring the clubs and one night he’s doing a show in a small club in a small town in Arkansas.
    With his dummy on his knee, he’s going through his usual dumb blonde jokes when a blonde woman in the fourth row stands on her chair and starts shouting: ”I’ve heard enough of your stupid blonde jokes. What makes you think you can stereotype women that way? What does the color of a person’s hair have to do with her worth as a human being? It’s guys like you who keep women like me from being respected at work and in the community and from reaching our full potential as a person, because you and your kind continue to perpetuate discrimination against, not only blondes, but women in general…and all in the name of humor!”
    The ventriloquist is embarrassed and begins to apologize, when the blonde yells, ”You stay out of this, mister! I’m talking to that little jerk on your knee!”

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