The confusion surrounding Raheem Sterling’s Liverpool future has been magnified with reports that he will refuse a new contract when negotiations begin this week.
Sources at Sky reported that the England international feels:
“Aggrieved at the manner in which contract negotiations have been handled because …the club have tried to bully him into signing a new contract. He also does not think he has been sufficiently protected from negative headlines.”
These latest concerns come after the QPR academy product had addressed his reticence in inking a new deal; by suggesting he was motivated by trophies rather than financial rewards in an unprecedented interview with the BBC’s Natalie Pirks.
Sterling has numerous admirers after his emergence as part of an irrepressible attacking triumvirate at Liverpool during the 2013/14 campaign.
But which would best suit a developing talent with a thirst for trophies?
Below we discuss the pros and cons of the market leaders in the race to house his registration come the close of the next transfer window.
Manchester City @ evens
Trophies on the horizon: Since breaking a 35-year silverware drought in 2010/11 the Citizens have endured just one season without anything to celebrate.
Share of playing time: The plight of previous young English talent to sign up for a tour of duty at the Etihad hardly suggests Sterling is guaranteed a central role.
Sterling is likely to command a far more substantial fee than Adam Johnson or Scott Sinclair, but he’ll still have Samir Nasri and David Silva to usurp as number ten.
The City right, however, is a different matter, with the potential for Sterling to walk straight into the berth currently occupied by the unfairly maligned yet undoubtedly one-dimensional Jesus Navas.
Tactical fit: The Jamaica-born forward would be best employed as a second striker behind Sergio Ageuro in Manuel Pellegrini’s default 4-4-2.
However, a more exciting prospect would be a front three in which he would feature on the right alongside Aguero and Silva – a setup that would promise to emulate the free-interchanging attacking of his current club’s ‘Suarez season’.
Liverpool @ 5/4
Trophies on the horizon: It was unclear whether Sterling considered the Capital One Cup the kind of trophy he was more about than money.
However, it is the only one of any kind the Reds have lifted since the 2006 Community Shield suggesting more are far from imminent.
Share of playing time: If anything, staying at Liverpool might see the forward play too many minutes in the 2015/16 campaign.
This season Sterling was arguably relied upon more than a big side should with a talent of just 20 years old, starting all bar eight of the club’s 57 matches to date.
Tactical fit: Considering his marquee status on Merseyside it’s surprising how often the youngster has been shunted around the chalkboard this term.
Then again, Brendan Rodgers has sent his side out in now fewer than six different formations according to whoscored.com, so perhaps not.
Chelsea @ 6/1
Trophies on the horizon: Jose Mourinho has won the league with every team he has managed for more than a season in his entire career. Enough said.
Share of playing time: Of the Blues’ first-choice attacking three, Oscar is arguably the most vulnerable to being supplanted as go-to sacrificial lamb when a greater onus on defensive strength is required.
Despite this the Brazilian remains more diligent with the onerous tasks than Sterling, averaging 1.9 tackles per league game to the Liverpool man’s 1.1 this term.
As a result the want-away might have to face up to the kind of marginal existence endured by Juan Cuadrado, Mohamed Salah or Victor Moses at Stamford Bridge.
Tactical fit: Mourinho’s preference for playing with a target man centre-forward is such that Loic Remy has played second second fiddle to Diego Costa, behind Didier Drogba in 2014/15.
Playing off an old-school number nine this season seems to have afforded Sterling less freedom than doing so as part of a more fluid trio.
Arsenal @ 8/1
Trophies on the horizon: For all the Gunners may be about to land a second successive FA Cup, throwing your lot in with them long-term still requires a leap of faith given another promising season has petered out into a third-place finish.
Share of playing time: Sterling’s arrival would surely necessitate the departure of Theo Walcott both in terms of squad and wage streamlining.
A right-flank face off for minutes with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be his most profitable avenue in the search for starts and the Liverpool man is less injury-prone than his Three Lions colleague.
Replacing either record signing Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez or the Chilean’s only serious player of the season rival Santi Cazorla at number ten is far less likely.
Tactical fit: Arsenal’s crisp passing and rapid movement seem fairly tailor-made for Sterling, a great exponent of the short, incisive, edge-of-the-area ball.
Again he may find himself employed in harness with a lumbering, service-requiring number nine on occasions, but the chance to once again operate in the vicinity of world-class players like Sanchez and Ozil could see the 20-year-old emancipated.
FC Bayern Munchen @ 10/1
Trophies on the horizon: FC Bayern’s utter dominance of the Bundesliga in recent seasons has seen them land the last three titles, meaning Sterling’s need for silverware is certain to be sated if swapping Liverpool for Bavaria.
Share of playing time: Josep Guardiola has an embarrassment of riches on his hands in the attacking positions, meaning Sterling would have to up his game significantly to get anywhere near the starting XI.
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are the wide forwards of choice, while Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller are able understudies/tactical alternatives.
Muller and Gotze are also more than adept at playing the false-nine role when Robert Lewandowski doesn’t feature.
Tactical fit: Sterling’s positional adaptability would make him a useful player to Guardiola, for whom he could play as either a winger a number ten or a false-nine.
However, his suspect finishing may ultimately mean he is seldom trusted in a central role.