Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool won't risk handing punishment to Raheem Sterling

By Sam Wallace

Raheem Sterling will not be punished by Liverpool for his "hippie crack" episode, with Brendan Rodgers preferring instead to take a less confrontational position after a tense two weeks in relations with the player.

The Liverpool manager will meet with Sterling tomorrow, a day after the Hillsborough memorial service, which takes place today at Anfield, and remind him of his responsibilities as a professional footballer.

The discussion is expected to be of a more paternalistic nature, with the acceptance on Liverpool's part that although the video of Sterling at home inhaling nitrous oxide - known as "hippie crack" - does not reflect well on him, the action is not illegal.

Liverpool's hierarchy do not feel that his actions fall under any sanction for damaging the reputation of the club, however, Rodgers is concerned that this is the second instance in the space of a few days in which friends of Sterling have leaked compromising pictures of the 20-year-old into the public sphere and that he needs to look carefully whether his trust has been betrayed.

The hippie crack video, which was uploaded online on Monday night as Liverpool were in action against Newcastle, followed a Snapchat picture of Sterling smoking a shisha pipe.

Yet the club are keen to keep relations with the player cordial following his outspoken interview on April 1, which took Liverpool by surprise and demonstrated just how determined the England winger is to dictate how his future will play out at the club.

That Sterling has not been sanctioned by Liverpool for that interview, and will not be for the shisha or the hippie crack episodes, suggests the club are adopting a position of the least confrontation possible with the player.

It now looks highly unlikely that Sterling will sign a new contract at Anfield, with interest registered in him from Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United as well as European giants Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

He has two years left on his contract and while Liverpool have consistently said that he is not for sale the issue now seems destined to be resolved this summer.

One option that is open to Sterling is the invoking of Fifa's article 17, which would allow him to buy out the final year of the two left on his deal.

Most notably tested in British football in the transfer of Andy Webster from Heart of Midlothian to Wigan in 2006, article 17 is often threatened in contract disputes but - in recent years - rarely used.

It would shorten Sterling's contract by a year and make his sale this summer the only serious option for Liverpool in order to realise his value.

Article 17 remains a possibility for Sterling but it is a volatile route for any player to take and compromise tends to be reached before that point.

Buying clubs are wary of it because of the Court of Arbitration for Sport decision in 2009 over the article 17-driven transfer of the Brazilian Matuzalem from Shakhtar Donetsk to Real Zaragoza.

In that case the Ukrainian club opposed the original Fifa ruling, which set the buyout fee at €6.8m and the CAS raised it to €11.8m.

Sterling is determined to play for a Champions League side. His home-grown status makes him attractive to clubs such as City and Chelsea, who have a shortage of those players.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph