Sterling's contract wrangle sours Stevie G's farewell
Raheem Sterling is one of English football's brightest talents after dazzling games for Brendan Rodgers' swashbuckling side that almost won the 2014 Premier League title. His performances have brought him international caps but a contract row is eclipsing the departure of skipper Steven Gerrard after 710 games for Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard's farewell to Liverpool after 17 years loyal service arrives at a pivotal moment in the club's history.
The 34-year-old captain - destined for LA Galaxy in American Major League Soccer next season - will play his 710th game for his boyhood club. It will be his final 90 minutes in the famous red jersey. They'll unfold at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium.
Gerrard said his emotional farewells to his adoring Anfield supporters in last week's 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
Liverpool travel to Stoke in fifth place and in line for a berth in next season's Europa League.
It is not the European competition that manager Brendan Rodgers had targeted at the start of the 2014/15 campaign.
The Merseysiders had finished the 2014 season second, just behind Manchester City. They were in the 2014/15 Uefa Champions League for the first time in five years and despite the departure of the Uruguay international Luis Suarez to Barcelona, they still had England stars Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling to cause havoc and mayhem in opposition defences.
In short that has not happened. Sturridge has been plagued by injuries all season. And latterly, Sterling seems more concerned about stocking his bank account.
Liverpool cancelled contract talks scheduled for 22 May following reports from Sterling’s agent that the 20-year-old wasn't interested in offers from the club.
Just ahead of the game, Rodgers said: "Raheem has two years left on his deal and I expect him to see that two years through.
"We want to resolve the situation but it doesn't change my approach to him. There is no problem there," he added.
It's a rather grubby end to a terrible season for Rodgers. His own position has come under increasing doubt after his side's failure to sustain a title challenge.
And the row with Sterling is a very public rebuff for the man who gave him his first senior outings.
It's quite a turnaround for a player around whom future sides would apparently be built.
Sterling blossomed in a role behind Suarez and Sturridge during the 2014 campaign. He has been less glittering when he has had to carry the attack.
But despite the lack of success at club level this season, he retains an important role in the international team.
England manager Roy Hodgson said: “I hope that people don’t judge him too harshly, whatever he happens to do, because as a player and a character I find him spot-on. I think he’s a very important player. And I really do sympathise with these players who have to live their lives under scrutiny – sometimes of their making, sometimes of other people’s making.”
Sterling, who has two years remaining on his deal with Liverpool, was jeered by some guests when he collected the club’s young player of the year award at a dinner on Tuesday.
Dissenting voices in the presence of Gerrard, by contrast, would be deemed heresy. The Whiston boy wonder became an icon during nearly two decades in the Liverpool first XI.
Gerrard admitted his head was turned when Jose Mourinho asked him to join his title-winning Chelsea team back in 2005 just after Gerrard had inspired Liverpool to a Champions League final victory over AC Milan.
Gerrard famously said he preferred to win more trophies on Merseyside. Nothing as prestigious has materialised. True, there have been a couple of FA Cups and a few League Cups but there wasn't the desired Premier League medal. Over the same period Chelsea won the title in 2006, 2010 and 2015.
In the torrent of eulogies gushing over the final days of the Premier League season, Mourinho has revealed that he wanted Gerrard to command the centre when he was at the helm of Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
The Portuguese - now in his second incarnation as Chelsea manager - has hailed Gerrard as one of the best midfielders of his generation. Mourinho can only sit and dream about what would have happened had he been able to deploy Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the same Chelsea midfield during their prime.
That though is fantasy football. Hodgson, addressing the realities of the modern game, added: "I worry for all these young players, to be honest. They become stars very quickly and we should never forget we’re dealing with very young people. They burst on the scene at a young age, and at 19 they are bona fide internationals with a couple of dozen caps and coming up to 100 league games. But we cannot given them the experience of a Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard. Unfortunately we can’t put another seven or eight years’ experience of life on his shoulders.”
Liverpool fans, sated on 17 years of life with Steven George Gerrard, would have expected at least a couple of seasons from Raheem Shaquille Sterling. They might not get even that.
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