In the end it was all rather anti-climactic! The press, foaming at the temerity of a 20 year old Southerner with no connection to the club who’d paid £5million for him as a teenager who’d decided that a season trying to qualify for the champions league whilst avoiding trying to qualify for the Europa League wasn’t for him and signalled his intent to move to a club which has produced two of the last four title winning teams, were calling it an outrage and a condemning both the club and the player. However it wasn’t the fact that Liverpool had done the same thing when Raheem Sterling was 15 years old , sans player forcing the move or even the fact that Sterling’s girlfriend received 5,000 messages of abuse; no, the media chose to focus the money as if the £49 million transfer fee and £200,000 a week wages was the first transfer ever paid.
Sky Sports News hurriedly ran a twitter poll, as to who had the better deal, Manchester City or Liverpool? Millions upon millions of Liverpool fans took to Twitter to attempt to claim the moral high ground sighting that £49 million was a terrific sum of money for a player ‘whose never achieved anything in the game’ (© Daily Mirror) ignoring the two most pertinent points that a) you can’t play £49 million on the left wing and b) he’d never achieved anything because he was playing for Liverpool.
Suddenly Sterling, who’d been compared to and analysed as a better player than David Silva last season, (© Daily Mirror) was labelled a mercenary, the England international now suddenly referred to as the Jamaican born Raheem Sterling was being lambasted for following in the footsteps of Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell as players who would become permanent bench warmers. Of course that’s ignoring two basic facts; in the last five years only three teams have finished with more points than City and were all crowned Champions of England. In those two seasons when Manchester City won the title they did it with the mere English presence of Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Adam Johnson and Gary Barry in 2012 (one more than Steven Gerrard has ever won) and in 2014 Jack Rodwell joined Hart, Richards, Lescott and Milner in collecting their second Premier League winners medals. Don’t forget to throw in their medals from the FA Cup in 2011 and the League Cup in 2014.
Of course there is a media agenda and it’s not to present the facts. The myth of Liverpool being one of the world’s biggest clubs is still real inside the bubble that is print news and television media yet both Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers have been crowned Champions of England since Liverpool last won the league. It’s a network of middle aged men brought up on Liverpool in the 80s as the only team seen regularly on national television throughout their European Cup runs and as an offset the following decades have seen the ever saturating media filled with ex-Liverpool players giving their two cents worth to anyone who would listen. Anyone from Ian Rush to John Aldridge to Kenny Dalglish to Phil Thompson, ben who’ve barely been relevant in this millennium, yet alone this decade are dragged out of hiding to spout the gospel of the ‘Liverpool way’. But why does it happen? Simply, because Liverpool fans believe it! I was once told by someone in print just before City won their first league title and they were bracing themselves for the slew of books that come with it that ultimately, no one gets rich from football books, unless it’s about Liverpool because they’ll buy into any old tat as long as you tell them how great they are.
As for Sterling the player, was it the right buy for City? Well, simply put yes it was as for the last several seasons our Achilles heel had been repeatedly exposed when we came up against well drilled and well-motivated players committed to putting 11 men behind the ball for an hour and a half of football whilst we slowly and sluggishly failed to break them down. Adding Sterling to the ranks gives us three things. It gives us width, it gives us pace and it gives us balance.
When we collected both league titles the predominant theme in both was the ability of both full backs, in the absence of consistent wingers, to overlap and bomb forwards into the area. However, once sides found this out (usually around Christmas) then we suddenly became very easy to defend against when sides operated the high press.
Amazingly we are a side that, Navas aside, doesn’t have a whole host of pace and this has been exposed at the Nou Camp (no shame there) and Anfield for the last two years when Sterling himself rinsed us every time he got into the final third.
I have a lot of time for Jesus Navas, my Dad the complete opposite, but he’s far from world class and whilst he has the ability to race down the by-line and ping in a cross at will he decision making lets him down, too often cutting inside to narrow the angle or taking a touch rather than passing, shooting or crossing first time. Then there is the fact that he and Pablo Zabaleta have failed to work out a way in two years to truly affective when playing down the same side; often running into each other’s space and generally just getting into each other’s way.
However with Sterling on the left and Navas on the right feeding Sergio or Bony down the middle, it becomes a terrifying prospect. In the past sides have been able to overload on Silva with the preferred method to kick lumps out of him with no other player able to capitalise on the space it creates elsewhere on the park. Alas should Sterling become the new focus then there is no better player in World football than Silva to exploit the extra space in the final third. Adding width and pace to the team gives us something that very few City sides have ever had, a Plan B. In addition, this signing confirms that restrictions that FFP imposed on the club last season the ponderousness of our midfield whilst trying to defend the title without a left winger was borderline criminal. Finally, if you think it’s important, it adds a player to the home grown quota.
So, welcome to Manchester City, Raheem Sterling. If you’ve been having difficulties with the press then this is the club for you as we’ve taken far more than our share of flack over the last couple of seasons and spending £49 million on yourself whilst having spent £1 billion since 2010 is just the latest in a storm rain cloud of piss drawing down on the Media’s parade.
So far it has been one in, one out at City this summer, Sterling in for Milner, people will argue he’s not top class or he isn’t worth the money but they can’t deny that City have signed a truly exciting player which they can improve. With fresh impetus, pace and flair City are suddenly looking a whole lot more exciting.