Earlier this morning it was reported that Manchester City had come back with its third offer for Raheem Sterling, and that Liverpool was finally intrigued enough to begin discussions. Those discussions have apparently taken less than a day.
Reports all over England – including from BBC, Sky Sports, The Mirror, The Guardian, The Times and Liverpool Echo – are spilling in that Raheem Sterling has been sold to City for $76 million. That jives with this morning’s report that City bid $70 million and Liverpool was hoping to add $7 million in add-ons, so the two have clearly come to a middle ground.
That makes Raheem Sterling the 11th most expensive soccer player of all-time, proving once again the ever-inflating overvaluation of English players across the domestic league. That puts crushing pressure on all involved.
There’s obviously pressure – immense pressure – on Raheem Sterling. At just 20 years old, with just 95 league matches under his belt, and just 18 career Premier League goals to his name, Sterling successfully forced his way out of Liverpool with questionable tactics that certainly didn’t make him any friends.
Now, he’ll have to live up to a huge price tag and sky-high expectations at Manchester City. The new most expensive English soccer player in history, many will recall the name Andy Carroll to their lips when denouncing Sterling’s switch. The former Liverpool flop was brought to Anfield with Fernando Torres money and proved too injury prone to be effective.
Last season, only Eden Hazard and Yannick Bolasie attempted more take-ons than Sterling in Premier League play, according to Opta statistics. Hazard – who cost $44 million – completed nearly twice those Sterling did (180 to 103). Bolasie – who cost Crystal Palace $702,000 – completed 89. Others who completed more take-ons than Sterling – in less attempts – are Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal ($42 million) and Sterling’s former teammate Philippe Coutinho ($11 million), who got to 109 successful dribbles with 24 less attempted than young Raheem.
That brings us to Liverpool. They’ve essentially failed twice in a row when given large sums of cash to spend. The Torres sale netted six Premier League goals from Andy Carroll, costing around $54 million. Then, Liverpool took the money from Luis Suarez’s sale to Barcelona and did slightly better, acquiring valuable assets in Emre Can and Adam Lallana, but also spending for notable (and expensive) flops Dejan Lovren, Mario Balotelli, and Alberto Moreno, and the jury’s still out on a young Lazar Markovic.
This time around, Liverpool has to get things right. They have to. Otherwise, they may never truly challenge for the top four again. Fenway Sports Group has proven effective in the sales of both Suarez and Sterling, wringing every last dollar out of those who wish to pay. But they’ve failed miserably in turning around to spend that money. This feels like a last opportunity to prove they can effectively discover and acquire talent.
Finally, there’s enormous pressure on Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini already feels to be on the thinnest of ice after failing to defend his Premier League title or even challenge Chelsea in the matter, and the squad seems to be aging and stagnant this summer. Enter Sterling stage left, and it will be on Pellegrini and the rest of the team to prove the money was well spent.
Everyone has a job to do, and it must be done quickly and effectively. Footballers (and managers) barely get room to breathe in the modern game, instead required to perform at the highest of levels at every turn or be cast adrift on the next boat out of town. Sterling certainly won’t be the last, but with a ridiculously inflated price tag that has yet to be truly justified, it is up to everyone involved to make sure the ends justify the means.