Players, managers, and fans all prepare for big games in different ways. A particular order to pulling on one's socks, a particular breakfast, a focus on a tactical idea or mantra to instill during training, nearly anything can become a totem for the getting of one's mind right ahead of a headlining fixture. With Liverpool set to face off against Manchester City next weekend, super agent man Aidy Ward is getting his mind right by firing some shots Liverpool's way regarding the way his super client man Raheem Sterling was utilized in Red.
Speaking to the bastion of journalistic excellence that is the Daily Mirror, Ward truly outdoes himself this time, giving both Liverpool fans a squirt of lemon juice in the eyes over a former darling, and Manchester City fans a hint of what is to come by underscoring his client's burgeoning value.
Perhaps the most fantastical portion of Ward's comments came in regards to how Sterling was used at Liverpool versus at City, and how the former was actually detrimental to his client's development.
Manuel Pellegrini has played him in a wide role with the freedom to drift inside and he has also played as a central striker.
At Liverpool, Raheem was asked to play as a full-back, just like Emre Can was asked to play as a central defender when he is a midfielder. That wasn't going to help him develop as a player.
It is true that Sterling has kicked on under Pellegrini and that goals have begun to come for the player. It is also quite obvious that playing foil to Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Yaya Toure is always going to be a desirable situation from a player's perspective
But the rest of the logic being demonstrated here by Mr. Ward is so transparently, intentionally off kilter that is hard to know where to start. Raheem Sterling the professional football player does not exist as an option on Manchester City's transfer target list if it is not for the development he went through at Liverpool. The majority of Sterling's time at Liverpool was spent playing in a wide role with freedom to drift. The lion's share of his final season at Liverpool was spent playing as a central striker, with every indication that he would continue to be tested there moving forward.
It's true that Sterling was asked to play at fullback, because there were moments under Rodgers where he was short on fullbacks, and Sterling was versatile enough to flex into that position. That is a good thing. That is what a good teammate, and a consummate professional needs to be prepared to do for his team and his manager. Further, playing out of position at a young age is one of the key components of developing a player at the senior level. So key, in fact, that it is not absurd to suggest Sterling's experiences across multiple positions serves him well in a Manchester City landscape that continually restocks its cupboards from the top shelf down. Mr. Ward and his client are kidding themselves if they think a shrewd tactician like Manuel Pellegrini would hesitate to move Sterling around to other positions if he felt it would benefit the team.
The comments continue in such a way that are probably worth a read. But even the most ardent of Sterling backers have to sigh with relief that Ward is no longer connected to Liverpool these days. On the other hand, imagine being a fly on the wall the first time Jürgen Klopp gets into a room with Aidy Ward.