Reds recognise Sterling value
By Ian Whittell
Liverpool 3 Wigan 0
Liverpool’s owners repeated their insistence that Luis Suarez will not be allowed to leave the club at any price and manager Brendan Rodgers made similar noises concerning the future of new England winger Raheem Sterling, following their roles in one of the team’s more convincing performances of the season.
That the Reds could fall prey to wealthier clubs is a sign of how far the once kingpins of Europe have fallen in recent times, but at least the attacking pair represent a degree of hope for the future.
Suarez scored twice, taking his tally for the season to 13 — while 17-year-old Sterling contributed a pair of assists — in a performance which prompted chairman Tom Werner to warn Manchester City to forget about attempting to sign him in January.
“Absolutely not,” said the American when asked if City’s unlimited wealth might tempt Liverpool into selling Suarez.
“Obviously we have made some mistakes in the past but our intention is to strengthen the squad. We know that January is a challenging time and I don’t want to say we’ve got X or Y but hopefully the fans will be pleased with what we accomplish.”
Before the transfer window opens, Liverpool have a piece of business to conduct which could be more important than anything they perform in January. Sterling does not turn 18 until December 8 and, accordingly, has become a regular in the Liverpool first team while playing on an academy contract.
In theory, he could sign for a Premier League rival, leaving Liverpool with nothing more than a “development fee” set by a tribunal. Of course, that is not going to happen and talks over a potential five-year contract will take time to conclude, according to Rodgers.
“They would be wasting his time. Raheem is in a real good place here,” said Rodgers. “He has been given an opportunity here this season and he is thriving on it and enjoying the work. He will tie down himself to a new contract because he wants to be here and he can be a great here at this football club.
“The message is very simple. We are trying to move the club forward over the next couple of years and there will be a little bit of pain along the way but there are not too many teams in the Premier League who are starting with three teenagers.
“And why would you want to leave one of the biggest clubs in world football? So it’s a no-brainer.”
Sterling showed great composure in collecting Jean Beausejour’s under-hit back-pass and setting up Suarez for his first goal before Jose Enrique set up the prolific forward’s second. Enrique himself scored a deserved third after Sterling’s shot had been parried by Ali Al Habsi.
Incredibly, it was only Liverpool’s second home league win of the season and helping the Reds end the particularly embarrassing statistic that they have not won consecutive league matches for almost a year.
“We haven’t won two games in a row since last December and that is ridiculous for Liverpool,” said goalkeeper Pepe Reina. “It is our main target now, to make sure we get those three points at Swansea. We want to keep that momentum going.”
To add to the frustrations felt by manager Roberto Martinez following a solid first-half performance, he saw Wigan’s influential midfielder Ben Watson limp off with a fractured leg following a hard — but fair — challenge with Sterling after barely half an hour.
It was a sickening injury, with the break being heard clearly in the main stand and Watson may not play again this season.
“It was a nasty sound, at grass level you could hear the break,” said Martinez. “I knew it was a really nasty injury. we will keep our fingers crossed and see what the final assessment is but it doesn’t look good.”
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Reina 7; Wisdom 7, Skrtel 8, Agger 8 (Carragher 82), Johnson 7; Gerrard 7, Allen 7; Sterling 7, Suso 7 (Henderson 36, 7), Enrique 8; Suarez 9 (Shelvey 87).
WIGAN (3-4-3): Al Habsi 7; Ramis 6, Caldwell 5 (Gomez 69, 5), Figueroa 5; Boyce 5, Watson 6 (Jones 31, 6), McCarthy 6, Beausejour 6; Kone 7, Maloney 6, Di Santo 5 (Miyaichi 69, 5).
Referee: Kevin Friend 7.
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