Raheem Sterling may have shelved contract negotiations until the summer, but that didn't stop one of the nation's least reputable news outlets with coming up with a brand new angle on the situation the night before Liverpool's loss to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final. In a move that might have you wishing for the halcyon days of unauthorized interviews with the Beeb, the Daily Mail has posited that Liverpool's young winger might be willing to buy out the final year of his own contract in order to speed up his departure.
The Mail are, of course, not technically wrong, merely providing a bit of vaguely irresponsible theorizing on a contractual loophole that could be exploited for a few more page hits. Like all players, Sterling has an option to exercise Article 17 of FIFA's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, which in Sterling's case states that players who signed a contract under the age of twenty-eight and are at least three years into their current contracts may buy out their contract in order to accelerate a move elsewhere.
Up until now, Liverpool have been thought to be in the driving position with Sterling and his agent. With two years left on Sterling's contract, Liverpool don't need to entertain anything less than an exorbitant bid this summer if they're to let the player go. If Sterling were to buy out his 2016-17 season, though, Liverpool's bargaining power this coming summer would be greatly reduced with the player having only one year left on his contract. What might normally be a £50m transfer fee could be reduced to just half that, speculates the Daily Mail.
It's an option that, if enacted, would put Sterling in a powerful bargaining position with Liverpool, although not without seriously damaging the player's standing with fans. More to the point, there isn't much precedent for players using this option to negotiate a better deal with their current club or a transfer to a new one — Jonas Gutierrez is a notable example in England having bought out his contract at Mallorca in order to move to Newcastle United — and the number of high profile players who have done so is approximately zero.
The Daily Mail isn't always at the forefront of supporting workers' rights, so it's nice to see them making sure everyone — including Raheem Sterling — is aware of football players' rights when it comes to their desire to play where they so choose. That this story sprung from the depths of FIFA's rule book and not a source inside the Sterling camp should help alleviate any stress caused by a largely baseless story now spreading like wildfire.
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