According to various reports, Raheem Sterling will tell Liverpool that he wants to leave the club in summer. This has caused of flurry of interest in his future club & potential. We take a look at of Raheem Sterling, with sky blue tinted glasses.
How much is Raheem Sterling worth, to City?
It’s about perception.
The perception each club has for Sterling. And the perception Sterling has for himself.
Transfer is tricky business & while we can analytically designate a value for a player, there are too many external factors which make it redundant. It comes down to the perception (or need) each club has for Sterling & the extent they are willing to stretch for it.
Liverpool FC (selling club) may value Sterling at range of £35 Mn - to - infinity (fee they would expect & be happy to get for a Golden boy winner with 2 years left on contract) & £100,000-120000 (offered wage/week). While, say, Manchester United FC (buying club) perceive Sterling’s worth at £52M & £150,000 (figures beyond which MUFC may stop their pursuit). But it also depends on what Sterling perceives his own true value & what his desires are – he may well reject MUFC’s higher wage offer and move to Real Madrid (I want to be a Galactico!) for a lesser wage, say £120,000-130000!!
So, what is Sterling worth, to City?
It depends on multitude of factors: Is Raheem worth the hype? Does City need him? Are there comparable players available in the market? How intense is City’s need? I try & answer a few of these questions here.
How good is Raheem Sterling?
The numbers say that he is very good at his age and the Golden Boy award is a testament to it.
Eden Hazard is a direct comparison for Raheem Sterling: similar position, playing style & age when they left or wanted to leave their clubs.
Here are radar charts for both, at same age, 19.
At 19, Sterling produced a peculiarly better season, actually a very good season, than Eden did at same age. Mark the words a "better season" and not a "better player" at same age. Reason being, we are euphoric to tag young players as better than someone else or best in his age group only to see them regress few seasons later. A young player needs conducive environment to grow – a manager who trusts him, suitable tactics, whether the player is a seen as top contributor or plays a supportive role etc.
What we should be ideally interested in is, does a player show progression on a 3 year time frame? He may have his ups & his downs, but did he get better? How did he handle various challenges a professional footballer is bound to face?
Entering 2014-15 season, Liverpool found them in an unlucky & dire condition – Suarez left, Sturridge faced a long injury, Lambert proved a mid-table ST and Balotelli looked like a square peg in a round hole. Brendan Rodgers was forced to experiment with his formation and the risks involved in such an exercise threatened Liverpool’s season & Rodgers’ own job. Liverpool was unsettled.
Raheem was made to feature in a plethora of positions including wide, central, as ST & even a wingback. As identified earlier, *conditions & environment*, which make huge impact.
With continual changes in his position a dip in performance was expected & it did occur. But Sterling still produced a remarkable season.
Amongst the two, at same age, Eden did have better & an excellent season and was on his way to establish himself as one of top U21 player.
With two years of utterly similar performances, I fail to see why Sterling is not voiced with same awe as Hazard was! May be it’s the long list of English player who have failed so miserably that we fear to accept it.
It will be meaningful to add that Sterling has 3, and not 2 years, of experience in top flight football. He started at such tender age that it almost seems impossible he has this experience. At expense of duplication but for the benefit to quick review, below are the Raheem Sterling radars for 3 years of top flight football:
So, is Raheem worth the hype? I would think so. While young players have their own inherent risks (see later part of this article), at the moment Sterling has done everything to justify his potential & done very good over a course of 3 seasons.
Alternate player & risk:
In last few years there has been a flood of creative passers (Gotze, Isco, James, Oscar), while wingers with desired skills & potential are more difficult to find.
Other than Bale, it would be prudent to not talk about CR7, Robbery, Neymar & Hazard as none are feasible targets. Let’s map other top alternates.
Lucas Moura: PSG won’t sell
Alexis Sanchez: Preferred London & still wants it. Its unlikely Arsenal will sell.
Theo Walcott: Home grown & most likely available, but at 26, he is yet to reach a level expected of him that too at a club & manager known for harnessing young talent. *Risk*
Depay (21): Bought by MUFC for £25 Mn.
After a tough start, Felipe Anderson (21) is shining in Seire A and giving performance to justify his talent. Just like Sterling, he provides excellent defensive work-rate. too For all his boundless talent, Felipe has just started to prove himself in Europe, his suitability to PL is yet to be tested (remember Lamela?) & he is not a home grown player.
Likes of Kevin Volland (22, €15M release clause), Florian Thauvin (22) & Juan Iturbe (21) will pose different risks & challenges but are super talented players at attainable prices.
While Sterling is PL tested & seems a better bet, in case City miss out on him, there are some other top talents who are available at decent fee.
While hiring talented but young players, it’s better to "Read offer documents carefully before signing": Young players are characterized by inconsistency, frustration, poor decision making & bouts of period wearing the invisibility cloak. Risks associated with injury history are another ambiguous territory.
There are not many peak age players available for this spot & that is a big problem for City. For a very important position, City is unable get a top player who can start firing quickly & pose lesser risks (Oh, Alexis!).
City could sign Kevin de Bruyne and a few young players in other spots. As an overall strategy, we should be vary of signing too many young & non-peak players – and avoid moving from one extreme to another. A good team’s foundation is balance – a group of experienced, battle-hardened players ably aligned with vigor, excitement, energy & flair. City should strive to achieve it.
City’s need – Desperate or Moderate?
Oh, we are desperate.
City team cries out for a pacey, direct player who can give an added dimension to the team. Navas was added for this purpose but while he is effective, he isn't world-class.
Needless to forget, that Eden Hazard was #1 target for City & lost out only at the last moment. That gap has still not been filled. Player who can take the ball & run at opponents at speed, dribble past to create havoc among defenders but also show intelligence to make that cutting-edge final pass. Raheem is showing all of these qualities.
The Home Grown reason
There are a handful of HG players who can start in a City team and Sterling – along with likes of Bale, Sturridge (oh!) and Ramsay – is one of them. And City is desperate to include HG players in XI. While we should be optimistic about our academy, as Pellegrini rightly pointed out, there are no miracles & we need to give it time (Rome was not built in a day, huh?). By bringing in Sterling, we will not be blocking the path of any top academy player too – no similar player is expected to fight for this position for minimum of 2-3 years and while Lopes should get his chances, deservedly, he is more of a creative type than a pace-winger.
How serious should we be about him?
To our dismay, it’s evident that City team lacks balance (over-aged, too many strikers, too many players of same type). With City looking to restructure the squad at multiple positions, Central Midfield (heir to Yaya) should be #1 priority. Refreshing the attack with a wide-pacy player is one of other priorities. With an opportunity to sign a top young player who also happens to be home grown willing to leave his club, Sterling should be #2 for City hierarchy.
Cut the chase and tell me, how much is Raheem Sterling really worth to City?
Again, Eden Hazard gives a good template to work on:
Hazard deal is 3 years old. I would presume, in absence of any data, that average inflation of 8-10% p.a. in last few years for a top talent will not be over the top. This gives present value of Eden Hazard’s as £40-42 Mn.
Now how much should we pay extra to fill a home grown spot? For our desperation? For a PL tested player?
Paying £5-8 Mn for all of this, doesn't sound bad, right?
Sterling’s worth to City: £47-50 Mn!
True Value: £25-28Mn
Market rate: £40-42Mn (market gives a damn about true value*)
Home Grown, Dire need, Lack of options, PL ready: £47-50Mn
Sure, sure this is maxed out & stretched valuation for Sterling and the more City pay above £30 Mn, more the risk City will be taking.