Liverpool’s hard-line stance in an increasingly acrimonious stand-off over the future of Raheem Sterling will not impact on the player in the short term.
The club yesterdaycancelled a scheduled meeting with the England international and his representative Aidy Ward after comments attributed to the agent claimed the 20-year-old would “definitely not” sign another contract even for £900,000-a-week.
Ward subsequently distanced himself from the quotes in the London Evening Standard and has reportedly threatened to take legal action but the damage had already been done.
The club saw no point in sitting down to resume talks, which were put on hold two months after the youngster turned down a £100,000-a-week deal in January, if Sterling’s camp had already come to their own conclusion.
But while the forward may be in limbo in the medium term – his contract still has two years to run – there is no suggestion he will be sanctioned for the actions of his agent.
Sterling trained with the squad at the club’s Melwood complex yesterday.
Ward has been widely criticised for his handling of negotiations after turning down the club’s offer of a substantial increase on the player’s current £35,000-a-week deal.
The player conducted an interview, unauthorised by the club, in which he insisted he was not “a money-grabber” before reports emerged earlier this week - played down by Ward – that Liverpool would be told at today’s meeting Sterling would not sign a new contract.
Ward’s latest gambit appears to have backfired after the club moved to take back the initiative in what is becoming something of a very public phoney war which took an explosive turn following the agent’s reported comments to the Evening Standard.
“I don’t care about the PR of the club and the club situation. I don’t care,” he is quoted as saying.
“He is definitely not signing. He’s not signing for £700,000, £800,000, £900,000 a week. He is not signing.
“My job is to make sure I do the best with them (my clients). If people say I am bad at my job, or they are badly advised it does not matter.
“I am not worried. Worried is making a decision not knowing what is going to happen. Every Premier League club will make a bid for him.” Manchester United were reported to have made a cheeky enquiry but senior sources at Old Trafford have said he is not on their list of current targets.
Sterling was booed by some fans when he picked up his young player of the year award on Tuesday but former Liverpool captain Graeme Souness believes they were entitled to do so.
Former Reds defender Jamie Carragher was infuriated by the way Sterling – and his representatives – have acted.
“For a 20-year-old kid to be taking on Liverpool Football Club over a contract goes to the pit of my stomach that just winds me up, it angers me,” he said.
“You keep your mouth shut – get on with playing football.”
However, Ward hit back against those comments, reportedly saying: “Carragher is a k***. Everybody knows it. Any of the criticism from current pundits or ex-Liverpool players – none of them things matter to me. It is not relevant.” Sterling has just been named in England’s squad to face the Republic of Ireland in a friendly on June 7 and the Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia on June 14.
National team boss Roy Hodgson believes it may provide some sanctuary for the youngster.
“I would like to think if the players felt there was some need to talk to me or if it could be of some benefit to them, then they would take the opportunity,” he said.
I would very much like things to be done in private but this is the world we live in.
“Good luck to the clubs who can keep these negotiations totally private and can keep these headlines from appearing.”
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