Both Liverpool and Raheem Sterling have grown hugely since their bitter split in 2015… yes, the manner of his Manchester City move burnt bridges but he can rebuild them at Anfield – imagine him linking up with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane!
- Raheem Sterling is linked with a sensational return to Liverpool from Man City
- The 25-year-old winger had an acrimonious exit from Anfield back in 2015
- But since joining City, he has improved rapidly and has become world-class
- He would need to rebuild bridges with fans but would add quality to Liverpool
Raheem Sterling’s career has been an excellent one to date. His move to Manchester City from Liverpool has played a key part in that.
He boasts more than 100 senior career goals, has won seven major trophies and played for two of the biggest clubs in the world in Liverpool and City alongside over 50 caps for England at the age of just 25.
He has also caused his fair share of provocation, from public standoffs and BBC interviews to photo shoots with Real Madrid shirts draped over his shoulder.
After a sour exit, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling is linked with a move back to Liverpool
In his last year at Liverpool, Sterling gave a BBC interview questioning the club’s direction
And at City, Sterling has blossomed into a formidable player winning numerous trophies
Forcing a £50m move to the Etihad back in 2015 rubbed salt in the wounds of every Liverpool fan, and in return, Anfield has thrown him into the belly of the beast every time he’s come to visit.
From betrayal, to anger, to questions of a financially driven motive, relations were strained from the minute there was a public contract stand-off involving a BBC interview and an admission he wasn’t ready to sign a new deal. The works of his agent, Aidy Ward, consistently seemed to add fuel to the fire.
Albeit hard to admit at the time, Sterling’s reasons for leaving were aligned with those before him; playing in a better team whose chances of winning trophies were greater with a clearer path of development in comparison to a team struggling to get the engine running.
The club were in a ‘post Luis Suarez’ slump, with the failure to adequately replace him culminating in a 6th placed finish in 2014-15, 17 points behind City and an astronomical 25 behind the Premier League winners Chelsea that season.
The circumstances left a sour taste, and the effects are still felt by many fans to date, with a cacophony of boos greeting Sterling whenever the two club’s cross paths.
Indeed, the vitriol from the stands towards him has been ferocious on his return to Anfield, while the altercations between him and Joe Gomez on international duty earlier in the season ensured there was no love lost.
And yet, in the frenetic nature that any footballing rivalry stirs up, you needn’t look further than his development in the past five years to know he’s come on leaps and bounds as a footballer.
Sterling always gets a fiery reception at Anfield and clashed with Joe Gomez on his last visit
But in happier times in red, he won the Golden Boy award after an outstanding breakthrough
At City, Sterling has lifted trophies that until recently, Liverpool were not competing for
When he left Merseyside in 2015, Sterling was a player with vast, yet still relatively untapped potential; a youngster with a lot of spark but one who was on stage two of a long road of development where consistency, like so many young players, proved an inhibiting factor.
Now nearly five years on, he is a truly world-class player, and even the most vehement of Liverpool fans will admit his move to Manchester has played a significant part.
He’s registered at least ten goals in all of his five campaigns at City, developing into a better all-round player under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage, boasting tactical astuteness alongside incisive movements both on and off the ball, a development of his finishing and a better general awareness of his team-mates.
He’s added trophies to his cabinet that Liverpool wouldn’t have competed for until recently.
But Liverpool are a different club to the one that Sterling left all the way back in 2015
Under Jurgen Klopp’s guidance, Liverpool are once again contenders for major trophies
Sterling’s not the only one to have transformed in the elapsed time. Liverpool are no longer in the same position as they were when he left. They have gone on to better things, winning the club’s sixth European Cup, a first Club World Cup and are closing in on the Premier League title.
The club have emerged out of the shadow of the bleak 2014-15 period and are very much back on the map, with Jurgen Klopp pioneering a transformation from head to toe, reflected by one of the most potent attacking tridents in Europe on the field, and a fruitful strategy off it.
In essence, both Liverpool and Sterling have evolved since 2015, becoming more accomplished forces, now very much at the peak of their respective powers.
While there is still bad blood, it’s largely been replaced by the club’s overall resurgence back to the top of world football from the meagre means it found itself in in 2015 – a time when Sterling’s youthful promise was one of few bright sparks.
Had he remained at Anfield, it’s hard to see Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both being signed by Klopp, whereas a return for the City man would be unlikely to displace either of the two in the starting eleven. Yet, a renaissance between the two parties would certainly bolster the attacking ranks – arguably the one remaining missing ingredient for Liverpool.
Albeit a cult hero, Divock Origi doesn’t dazzle like Roberto Firmino, nor does he contribute as widely to Klopp’s overall philosophy than the Brazilian. So too Xherdan Shaqiri and Takumi Minamino, two direct understudies to Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane who have struggled with injuries and finding their feet respectively.
If Sterling stayed, it is unlikely that both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane would be there now
But at City, Sterling’s improvement has been helped in no small part by Pep Guardiola
In contrast, Sterling’s return would add further quality to one of Europe’s most feared attacks.
He’s an experienced Premier League player who is used to playing in a possession-heavy team where the onus is on breaking down the opposition’s walls and whose style of play resembles that of both Salah and Mane.
While unlikely he would displace either of Liverpool’s current duo, a direct goal contribution approximately every 111 minutes this season, placing him in between Salah on 118 minutes and Mane on 101 minutes, shows just how effective he can be.
You want as many good players as possible when you are fighting for silverware, and Sterling is undoubtedly one in the highest calibre.
Yes he’d certainly have some bridges to build given past sagas, but I’d take him back if the circumstances were right.
Realistically though, I’m not sure they will ever be.
Sterling’s skills would definitely benefit a side like Liverpool – but will he really leave City?
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