Raheem Sterling deliberately made his position untenable at Liverpool by publicly refusing to sign a new contract and repeatedly asking for a transfer.
But the venom from supporters and ex-Liverpool players was so intense if Sterling had changed his mind and decided to stay he would have suffered serious abuse and possibly assault.
Liverpool fans have a history of over-reacting when players voice their intent to leave. Steven Gerrard, the legendary midfielder who recently left Anfield for LA Galaxy after 17 years at Liverpool, was subjected to immense pressure from the club and fans alike when he was on the verge of leaving to join Chelsea some years ago. Gerrard experienced all manner of intimidation and abuse. He was eventually “persuaded” to stay.
Last week reports were that angry Liverpool fans went to Sterling’s house to vent their frustration. By then there was no chance of him staying so presumably this was not a cordial confrontation.
He was even getting grief from trolls on his phone. Sterling changed his number three times because fans had obtained it and suspects that a rogue employee at the club was making his numbers public. The trolls have been active on social media too and even directed threats at Sterling’s toddler daughter on Twitter. Police aim to catch the culprits.
With those sort of scare tactics and sheer hatred there was no way he would change his decision. Everyone in employment is entitled to move if unhappy, not paid their worth or a better offer comes along and Sterling is just exercising that basic right.
Anyway, he had every reason to be disgruntled at Anfield. Liverpool were paying him around $60,000 a week. Great money, but on current salaries of elite Premier League players he was worth at least four times that.
Still only 20 and having first played for England as a 17-year-old, Sterling was certainly underpaid. Yes, Liverpool had been pressing him to sign a new, improved contract, but it would never have been for as much as the richer clubs.
No wonder he has joined Manchester City in a record transfer for a British player of around $76 million. His signing-on fee alone will run to millions. Plus his weekly wages will be at least $250,000. With bonuses, Sterling will be a very rich young man extremely quickly.
From a football perspective, he also wanted a new challenge because Liverpool finished fifth last season so did not qualify for the Champions League.
All footballers in Europe want to experience this competition, not just for the extra cash and profile, but because they can pit themselves against the continent’s best, who just happen to be the world’s finest too.
They include Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Arjen Robben, Philipp Lahm and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Sterling had a prickly relationship with Reds manager Brendan Rodgers towards the end and probably felt his boss was obsessed with keeping him because if the Reds start badly next season, Rodgers is likely to be seeking a new job before Christmas. He only just hung on to his position at the end of last term. Having spent hundreds of millions on new players, the club owners want a significant return. A Champions League place at least and possibly a trophy.
It’s great that Queens Park Rangers will get 20 percent of Sterling’s transfer fee – about $15 million – because when the Jamaica-born winger joined Liverpool from QPR five years ago for a mere $700,000, the London club realized his potential and insisted on a sell-on fee if it ever happened. Nice little windfall for Rangers.
In a final act of desperation to keep Sterling, on Saturday, he was named on a 30-man list for Liverpool’s tour of Thailand, Australia and Malaysia, but was quickly withdrawn.
He is entitled to play at the highest level. Liverpool, great club as it is, has not achieved that and he is merely ensuring that his potential and ambitions are met elsewhere.