When Raheem Sterling began to push for a move away from Liverpool last summer, one angle the player's representatives tried taking was to suggest the move was based on his relationship with Brendan Rodgers breaking down. It was perhaps only a matter of time, following Rodgers' sacking, before that talking point would be revisited.
"There is no issue with the fans there, they just don't know the full story," said Sterling's agent Aidy Ward in an interview with the Daily Mail this week. "There are lots of good people at Liverpool. I had no problem with Ian Ayre for example. I have no issue with anyone but Rodgers. Fifty percent of the players would probably tell you Brendan is not a good manager, but he is a good coach."
Ward made himself into an easy villain during Sterling's departure, insisting Sterling wouldn't sign a new deal with Liverpool no matter the wage and badmouthing ex-Reds legends. Rodgers, though, did develop a record of alienating players during his time at the club, and Ward insists Sterling's relationship with the man in charge was a strained one from just about the moment he arrived.
"In that documentary, Being Liverpool," said Ward. "When Brendan pulled Raheem on Camera—and it went on TV—and said he'd be on the first plane home if he answered back to him again, what do you think Raheem did after that? He called me, telling me he had not said what the manager had accused him of. I listened and said, ‘Go and apologise to the manager, get your head down, and work hard.'"
Sterling did that, and as Ward would have it, it's what secured his place in the first team in Rodgers' first season. But it also provided the foundation for a relationship that—for all that Rodgers liked to talk up his role in nurturing and developing Sterling—was strained from day one. Of course it's only one side of the story, but it's hardly a stretch to imagine it's a fair reflection of how Sterling feels.
There may be no truth to any of it. Perhaps it's just PR spin in an attempt to rehabilitate Sterling's name after the player took a beating in the press over the summer that will have greatly impacted his ability to earn via sponsorship and endorsement deals. For fans who think Sterling should still be a Liverpool player, though, it would appear that Ward is in full agreement.
"Would Raheem under Klopp have been a good scenario?" asked the agent. "Definitely. Working with Klopp could have been great. He's going to get the best out of those players. It could have been a dream come true. Raheem could've stayed. He should be at Liverpool. In December I spoke to Liverpool and said we'll sign if there is a buyout clause—those clauses are now common practice. They said no to that.
"Then there was an underhandedness. There were sly remarks. In press conferences, Brendan told everyone Raheem would sign—and why do that? I knew, Brendan knew, and Liverpool knew there was an issue. Right now he should probably still be a Liverpool player, but he's not and he's in a great place at City."