Carragher Sterling worth huge pay deal
Manchester derby gives forward a chance to show he should be lauded as much as Owen, Beckham and Rooney
Given his outstanding form, you would imagine Raheem Sterling to be in a period of his career where he is receiving universal praise. Instead, tomorrow’s Manchester derby is preceded by critical headlines, a brilliant Champions League performance overshadowed by a contentious penalty incident. This seems to be the way with Raheem. For some reason, there is often a cause to find faults rather then celebrate his talent.
If I was playing in a match and the referee wrongly gave my team a penalty, there is no way I would want the team-mate involved telling the official he should not give it. Would I – or any defender – tell the referee to give a penalty if I made a foul in the box but it was deemed a fair tackle? No chance.
Having said that, I wish Raheem had been inspired by that famous Robbie Fowler episode against Arsenal in 1997, when he pleaded with the ref not to penalise David Seaman. Not because it was his duty to tell the officials they got it wrong, but because it would help shift public opinion of Raheem.
As I sat in a pub in London last summer, watching England’s World Cup game against Colombia, the negativity towards him was shocking. When he was subbed, there were fans booing his performance. How could the reaction to such a promising young player reach that point? I was one of those who felt he was not at his best in Russia and could have been left out, but the anger directed at him was extreme.
Perceptions of Sterling are unfounded. The acrimony around the move to Manchester City – or, more specifically, the manner in which his representatives went about securing it – undoubtedly triggered some of that. I was critical of his agent. He had a go back. Fair enough. I stand by my comments.
It was my view that Raheem owed Liverpool a bit more. Having been signed from Queens Park Rangers at 15 and given a debut at 17, he became part of a title-challenging team, giving him the platform to be fast-tracked into the England squad. With Liverpool enduring a bad year after Luis Suarez’s sale, he could have stayed and become the club’s main man.
He was sold for £49million – a massive fee for his age. When it went through, all sides were content. I still believe much of what led to it was unnecessary, but never felt Raheem should take the major portion of blame for that. There was damage to his reputation because of it. It was too easy to put his move down to greed rather than ambition when stories about contract demands regularly appeared.
No matter how it came about – or how unpalatable to Liverpool supporters to lose such an important player – there is not one who can look at how his career has progressed and say he made the wrong decision. He left for footballing reasons, given where Liverpool stood at the time and the direction City were heading. Raheem was guaranteed to compete for the Premier League and Champions League every season, and work under one of the best managers of all time.
Since Pep Guardiola arrived, Raheem’s game has gone up a level so he now ranks alongside Harry Kane as England’s best player. The difference is that Kane has taken club form on to the international stage. Raheem’s next challenge is to make his recent performance against Spain a regular occurrence.
His recent statistics bode well. Only one other Premier League player, Mohamed Salah, has a greater combined goals and assist record since the start of last season. Sterling has 24 goals and 16 assists. There has been a massive improvement in productivity under Guardiola, but what is most exciting is the potential for more. Pep will not stop demanding.
Despite his improving goal record, he can score more.
In the last Manchester derby, he missed two clear chances to score goals which would have put the game beyond doubt in the first half – and ensured City won the title against their neighbours. Instead, United came back to win 3-2. Tomorrow is an opportunity for Raheem to show United how much he has improved. If City win, they will already have 10 from a possible 12 points against their biggest rivals, well advanced in their title defence. In Kevin De Bruyne’s absence, Raheem’s form is a reason for that. That is why we are reading about his new £300,000-a-week contract, which sounds astronomical but in this day and age reflects his market value.
Statistically, his end product since the start of the 2017-18 campaign is above Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and David Silva – no one would bat an eyelid if they were rewarded with this kind of deal, so why should it be different for Raheem? He is a pivotal member of what is potentially the greatest Premier League team ever – and already is in terms of points accumulated to win a title.
Just as significantly, he represents everything we want in our best young England players; technically gifted, focused, ambitious, hungry to learn and very intelligent tactically. He is precisely the type of player we have previously stated English academies do not produce. He is the perfect example for this and the next generation.
I remember when he came into the Liverpool squad for the first time in 2012. He was a shy, hardworking kid. There was no bling. No ego. No flashiness. I have seen plenty of young lads elevated into the senior squad acting like they have made it. Raheem did not. He was never a problem, just a good professional with the ambition to become the best he could be.
In one of the first training sessions, he outmuscled Glen Johnson – a senior professional at the time – and outpaced him. “Wow,” I thought. “This lad has something.” During his career, he has already played a variety of roles – winger, No10 and even a “false nine” for a while at Liverpool, where he was excellent.
His Premier League return should be lauded as much as all those great young English talents of recent history – Michael Owen, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Kane. He is still only 23. Imagine how good he will be in four years.
If he can consistently replicate that for his country, those boos will subside and England’s fans will be as thrilled as Manchester City’s to see him in their shirt.
Combined record: Raheem Sterling has 24 goals and 16 assists for City since the start of last season