Liverpool is the eighth richest club in the world, yet they’ve lost Luis Suarez and now Raheem Sterling in successive summers. Suarez wanted to leave simply join his wife and her family in Barcelona and because no club in the world offers a better chance to win titles whereas the Sterling situation began as a money battle that turned personal.
Sterling was making just £35,000 per week and Liverpool took a hard line in negotiating that quickly got irrevocably out of hand and was played out in the media ending with him calling in sick during the start of their preseason tour until a $76 million deal was finally agreed upon with Manchester City.
Brendan Rodgers’ system doesn’t accommodate wingers and perhaps that is part of the reason why Liverpool’s valuation of Sterling didn’t match City’s. Sterling was frequently played out of position centrally and that was part of the reason for his drop in form without Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Four of Liverpool’s top-7 transfer purchases have been made in the past two seasons in Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic.
While Liverpool shouldn’t have allowed this to situation to happen, they did well in waiting out City despite a lack of legitimate competition from other clubs. The price went from £25 million to £40 million until it finally hit £49 million. The sale was a good one for Liverpool, but it will ultimately be judged by how that money is reinvested and hopefully they become as good at buying players as they are at selling them.
Jordon Ibe, Markovic and Divock Origi are young and talented players in their own right and Rodgers will need to turn all of this talent into a cohesive club that has enough established quality to get back into the top-4 or the likes of Coutinho, Emre Can and Firmino may similarly look to exit to not waste their prime on a club stuck in the Europa League. The reputation of Liverpool as a middling club with a lot of good but not great players incapable of truly competing with Chelsea, United, City and Arsenal will become amplified as a result of this move.
Grade for Liverpool: C+
Sterling represents City’s first true marquee signing for several seasons as they were settling for role players on the transfer market. Adding Sterling now after dedicating resources to improving their defense in Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando, as well as a physical force upfront in Wilfried Bony puts City
With Sterling, Sergio Aguero and David Silva forming an attacking trio, City has world class quality and three skill-sets that complement each other. City has wanted to reunite Isco with Manuel Pellegrini and he gets to play outside-in similarly in Sterling.
Sterling is young and versatile with proven ability to keep up with great attacking partners. After a frustrating season at Liverpool, we should again see peak Sterling just as he’s beginning to ascend to his prime. Sterling is an intelligent player that will link up beautifully with Aguero and Silva. Sterling won’t move around as he has at Liverpool and should see way more of the ball in the attacking third in advantageous situations than he has and those take-ons will be all the easier with the gravity of Aguero as it was with the gravity of Suarez.
City undoubtedly paid an English-player tax to acquire Sterling. Angel di Maria was bought for substantially more money by Manchester United last year, but Sterling still goes to City for more than Chelsea’s transfer for Eden Hazard and Arsenal’s deal last summer for Alexis Sanchez.
Sterling is just outside the top-10 transfer fees of all-time and the difference between him and all of those players other than Neymar is that they were already proven sure things when bought. Sterling is incredibly young to command such a fee and City is putting money down on him reaching his potential as opposed to him merely sustaining his prime and staying healthy. We often see large contracts and transfers for past performance, but it is more rare to see it done at this level questing for future performance.
Yaya Toure was an overpay at £24 million by City in 2010 but he’d have been worth it at double that figure since he’s led them to two Premier League titles. The money for signings this big hardly matters except for the opportunity cost in choosing one player over a better one. City made a decision to acquire Sterling and once they did it didn’t matter too significantly if it was for £35 million of £50 million. This move won’t prelude them from going after Kevin De Bruyne.
Grade for City: A-
The end of Sterling’s tenure with Liverpool was indubitably ugly, but the result is ultimately a great one for him. Sterling gets to immediately be paid above his fair market rate while going to a club that will consistently compete for the Premier League title and remains on the cusp of taking the next step in the Champions League.
City has also seemed to hit a dead end in the Champions League and any improvement in that competition will result in Sterling receiving a considerable amount of credit for splendidly changing the equation.
Sterling is truly in a can’t lose situation with City as they should be very good immediately with the element he brings to an aging side and if they aren’t, it will likely be that aging side centered on Yaya to receive the blame. City would then finally rebuild with younger options and Sterling as the centerpiece.
Grade for Raheem Sterling: A-