As soon as Raheem Sterling began to push for a move, the narrative began to change amongst Liverpool fans. No longer the brightest English talent of his generation, Sterling was now a budding Shaun Wright-Phillips or Scott Sinclair. A speed merchant destined to languish on City’s bench before moving on to a mid-table future.
While Sterling’s stock fell, many began to insist they’d always preferred Jordon Ibe. He was faster and stronger and had more upside, and turning a profit on selling Sterling would still leave the club with a better and younger talent coming up to replace him in the squad. As it turns out, it’s not just the average fan who has been working overtime to move on from Sterling before he’s officially gone.
"Brendan Rodgers should let Raheem Sterling leave for Manchester City now," ex-Red legend John Aldridge told followers today on his Kicca account. "The sooner he leaves the better for all involved. All this transfer talk is making a mockery of Liverpool Football Club, [and while] Raheem is obviously a hugely talented player, Liverpool have a top replacement in Jordon Ibe.
"I’ve been watching Jordon play since he was 15. He’s a terrific player and has bags of potential. In fact, I think he’s got as much if not more potential than Raheem and will go on to be a better player. On top of that he’s a big, strong lad who is very direct with a great shot on him."
Ibe is clearly a major talent, and given how unpredictable player development can be, there’s even a chance he ends up better than Sterling. Yet despite all his talent, the sudden move by many to proclaim Ibe and not the far more proven Sterling as the club’s most promising youngster can’t help but seem like sour grapes.
Power and directness are clear strong points to Ibe’s game, but so far he hasn’t shown the vision or movement that Sterling has—or that Sterling already had at a similar stage in his development. And just as there’s no guarantee Sterling continues to grow, there’s no guarantee Ibe develops those areas of his game. If he can, then just maybe he’ll end up the better player. Maybe.
If he can’t, and if Sterling’s creative flexibility and tactical nous meanwhile flourishes and grows even further at his next stop, it will be Ibe heading down the path to one dimensional speed merchant while Sterling earns every bit of his likely £50M transfer fee. Ibe’s raw talent is prodigious, but his game is not as well rounded as Sterling’s was at the same age.
"For the sake of Liverpool Football Club they should take the millions on offer and then everybody will be better off," added Aldridge. "Raheem will be a bit richer and Liverpool will be rid of a player who doesn’t want to play for the club. It’s win-win. Manchester City are a big club and Raheem will get paid well and life at Anfield will go on without him because he’s certainly not bigger than the club."
All of which is probably true at the end of the day and why, if City come through with a £50M bid, Sterling will be sold. That, though, seems all that needs saying, and that so many—both fans and ex-players alike—have felt compelled to drag Ibe into things feels unnecessary and a slightly dishonest re-writing of history.
Raheem Sterling isn’t bigger than the club and he isn’t yet the finished article. He’s a player who could become one of the best in the world but he isn’t there yet, and if Manchester City meet Liverpool’s valuation he will be gone. That’s really all there is to the situation and all that needs saying about it.
- Liverpool Set to Appoint Sean O'Driscoll as Assistant Manager
- Liverpool FC Transfer Rumours: Another Day, Another Benteke Swap Rumour (Tottenham Hotspur Ed.)
- Gomez: "I Had My Mind Set on Liverpool"
- Liverpool FC Transfer Rumours: Reds See Mario Gomez as Potential Mario Balotelli Replacement
- Sampdoria Drop Out of the Running for Mario Balotelli