The ongoing contract saga between forward Raheem Sterling, manager Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool took an unexpected and perhaps damaging turn Wednesday, when the 20-year-old conducted an unapproved interview with the BBC regarding his future with the club beyond this term.
Taken by themselves, the comments seem to be the way Sterling has chosen to address accusations that he’s solely focused on money rather than helping Anfield win matches. However they can also be viewed as Sterling’s way of circumventing Liverpool and Rodgers before negotiations again take place.
"All I can say to the fans is that is not me, money is not everything to me in life,” Sterling said. "I've got family I adore, my mum has been there throughout my life. My daughter who is two going on three and these people mean everything to me.
"Everyone around me can vouch it has never been about money for me. I talk about winning trophies throughout my career, that's all I talk about. I never talk about how many cars I'm going to drive, how many houses I've got. I just want to be the best that I can be."
Sterling decided to table any further contract discussions until the term’s conclusion, but that decision has only further fueled speculation that the Englishman will spurn Merseyside for other pastures.
Daily Mirror reported earlier this week that Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger are “plotting” a shock move for Sterling, but also stated that other top clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester City and Bayern Munich could be circling the murky situation as well.
Sterling is technically under contract until 2017, but that won’t stop clubs from trying to swoop in with an exorbitant transfer fee and an increase in wages for Sterling. Since graduating from Liverpool’s youth academy and joining the first team in 2012, Sterling’s netted 17 goals and his wage demands are believed to be well over the £100,000 per week range.
Less than a year removed from the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, and the likes of Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert unable to fill the massive goal void, losing a budding star like Sterling could decimate Liverpool’s attack.
Rodgers, however, has held his ground about Sterling’s future at Anfield.
"Concentration should be on his football. If his ambition is to win trophies that's aligned with what we do here,” Rodgers told reporters Thursday. "Raheem has two and a half years left on his deal and he's not going anywhere in the summer."
Assuming Liverpool can find a solution to the Sterling issue, they still must worry about midfield and who will take on the responsibilities for MLS-bound legend Steven Gerrard.
It was originally believed that Manchester City midfielder James Milner was all but certain to sign with Liverpool after his contract runs out this term. But Daily Star reported that Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini, previously Milner's manager at City, is making a push to sign the 29-year-old.
"Milner's contract is expiring. He'll decide what's best for him," Mancini said. "In the summer we'll sign a top player, because we are Inter, a top team."
Milner is arguably in the best form of his career, totaling three goals and six assists for second-place City this year, and his reasonable market value of roughly £12 million makes him a bargain for Liverpool or any other interested club.
The cheaper rate for Milner could even allow Rodgers to further pad midfield with the likes of Derby’s Will Hughes. The Reds are content to spend £15 million to acquire Hughes, Metro reported, and the 19-year-old is evidently “desperate” to join Premier League.