By David de Winter – Sports Editor
The drawn-out transfer saga of Raheem Sterling seems to have finally been completed as Manchester City are poised to sign the former Liverpool forward for a fee that could rise to £49 million. Sterling is due to fly out to Australia to join his new teammates on their pre-season tour. City finally have the man they so desperately wanted but will he be a roaring success or an expensive flop?
As a Liverpool fan myself I will try and be as impartial as possible – and I genuinely don’t think Sterling is that good. If wages are factored in, City are spending up to £100 million pounds in total on one player for the duration of his contract. That is a crazy amount of money for a player who has shone in fits and spurts, but who is far from the finished article.
From a business point of view the transfer makes sense. Sterling is young enough to have re-sale value and City are getting a player who, in theory, will only improve whilst spending his peak footballing years at the Etihad. He is a player of immense potential but there is a giant leap between having potential and fulfilling that potential.
At Liverpool his record on paper was not that impressive. He managed 23 goals and 15 assists in 129 appearances for the Reds and whilst his pace and dribbling skills may seem mesmeric, Sterling doesn’t actually have much of an end product. His finishing is ropey at best (witness his performance at Old Trafford last season) and his passing can be careless. I saw him live against Tottenham Hotspur last season and he effectively ran the show, but too often for Liverpool he went missing in games, cutting a frustrated and sometimes peripheral figure.
Then there is the problem of where he fits in at City. The obvious position for him is as an attacking forward behind Sergio Agüero, alongside Yaya Toure and David Silva, assuming City play with one forward. If the Citizens play 4-4-2 Sterling would likely be shunted out to the right wing where he is much less effective and where he would also have much more defensive responsibility.
And what about his questionable character? Sterling’s and his agent Aidy Ward’s conduct was a PR masterclass in how not to force a transfer to a rival club. Whilst Manchester City offer a title-challenging squad and Champions League football, he was developing well at Liverpool and was set to be a pillar around which Brendan Rodgers was to build his side. Although many will be sad to see a talent like Sterling leave, I expect few within Melwood will be shedding many tears.
Additionally he has been photographed taking the legal high ‘hippy crack’ (the mainstream media make it out to be a lot more scandalous than it actually is) and has been accused by many of being solely motivated by money. On the one hand I do think Sterling has been pretty terribly advised by Ward – yet on the other hand he is moving to a club that can offer him more chances of silverware, something that is almost guaranteed at Man City but not at Anfield. Whilst the money must be a contributing factor, the fact is that Sterling is moving from a club that cannot match the ambition, (recent) success and financial clout of City.
So is it a good move for everyone concerned? On the face of it, yes: City wanted Sterling and eventually got their man, he wanted to move and Liverpool, once it was clear that they did not want to keep him against his will, got a good price for him.
He certainly has the raw materials at his disposal and City and England fans will be hoping that Sterling develops into a world-class mainstay of the team for years to come and does not suffer the fate of other young ex-City English midfielders such as Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair and Adam Johnson. It is a risk for Liverpool to let him leave as they need to find replacement of suitable quality (no easy task), but it also a risk for City. In the coming seasons it will be intriguing to see whether the risk pays off.