There's nothing worse than an important player leaving a club to supposedly play with better players and move on to the next stage of his career. For the fans who are left behind, there are a number of eventualities that can soothe open wounds: outperform the club in question, replace the player seamlessly, or smirk as the player struggles at pastures new. A wondrous concoction of all three might make you feel exorbitantly smug after predicting despair for the whoever dares to leave your beloved. Things change quickly in football so one can never be too sure of where things stand.
Unfortunately, the present might suggest that Raheem Sterling made the right decision to leave Liverpool, and it's one that Philippe Coutinho may make over the next 12 to 18 months. Liverpool are struggling under Brendan Rodgers, Jordon Ibe hasn't quite replicated the impact of the departed contract rebel scamp, Roberto Firmino hasn't quite settled into the team yet, and Sterling has made a decent start in Manchester. While the 20-year-old is still very much a player who needs to develop and refine parts of his game, he doesn't look out of place playing alongside some experienced and talented Manchester City attackers.
The way Sterling left the club did not reflect well on the youngster, but it was strange to see many Liverpool fans underestimate the considerable potential that lay within the England international's football boots. I've been an enormous fan of Sterling, a player with the necessary technical, tactical, and mental qualities to excel at the highest level. Aidy Ward and his client got their move in the end but should have conducted themselves differently. What did Sterling have to say on the move and his former club? In an interview with the Guardian, the Manchester City number seven had kind words to say about those he worked with on Merseyside.
When everything was going on and it was in the papers every day, everyone at Liverpool was top-notch. I spoke to the manager every day. I spoke to all the players. Everyone outside the club made it out as being something really bad but there was no problem with the manager or the other players. The manager even invited me over to his house to talk. It wasn't anything like as bad as people made out. I don't regret doing the interview because it was frustrating hearing some of the stories about myself and some of the silly money people said I was supposedly rejecting, when it was nothing like that. I just wanted to get my point across but probably there was a better way I could have done it. After that, I wouldn't wish it on anyone; all the negativity that came through. It was difficult for me. I don't mind bad press when it is about football because hopefully you can do something to put it right. It just felt towards the end [at Liverpool] it was a bit personal. People developed this perception of me and it was shocking to find the way that some people viewed me.
Was some of the criticism a bit personal? Liverpool fans still seem obsessed with Luis Suárez despite his shenanigans at the club. Maybe it's because he flirted with leaving, gave Liverpool an extremely productive season, and finally made the move Barcelona. Sterling's representative, as Gary Neville described Aidy Ward, did little to quell the noise surrounding his client. Liverpool probably wanted to score political points considering the fact that a highly-valued young player wanted to leave the club early in his development, something that is quite unusual. It was a mess, but Sterling's surprise was curious. Still, he got his move and is enjoying playing with some top top players.
There are more experienced players here. Obviously, Liverpool had many great players as well but the players here have been at the highest level for many years and you can definitely see that on the training pitch.
This is the part that's hardest to argue with. Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Yaya Touré, and Kevin De Bruyne are quite the collection of attacking players for a player like Sterling to combine with. He had the experience of working with Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard for 18 months from January 2013. He continues his development with another set of quality players at a club with higher expectations than Liverpool. Players as young as Sterling shouldn't leave the club so early when there is no will for them to do so. Liverpool will move on from Sterling but should learn from what followed the club's biggest push for a league title for nearly 25 years.