Professional Footballers' Association ready to step in as Raheem Sterling saga hits fever pitch
The Professional Footballers' Association could provide an emergency solution to the escalating contractual dispute between the Raheem Sterling camp and Liverpool, after the club cancelled today's scheduled talks on the issue when the player's agent said he would even refuse an offer of "£900,000 a week".
The PFA was involved in resolving Luis Suarez's contractual dispute with the same club when he had been denied the chance to talk to Arsenal two years ago and it is understood that chief executive Gordon Taylor would be prepared to help mediate if there was a genuine desire to resolve the stand-off.
Taylor is aware of how the toxicity of the Sterling controversy is beginning to cause new damage to the reputation of the game.
But the players' union is reluctant to offer itself publicly as a mediator, knowing how delicate such situations can be, and would wait to be asked.
Sterling's agent will tell Liverpool that extraordinary observations he made in a telephone interview with a news reporter from the London Evening Standard - including the "£900,000 a week" comment - were given off the cuff and not intended for publication, though the paper entirely stands by the interview.
Liverpool abandoned the talks at the Melwood training ground after Ward said of Sterling: "He is definitely not signing. He's not signing for £700, £800, £900,000 a week. He is not signing."
Ward will insist that was not a deliberate attempt to damage an already fractured relationship with the club, though after a week in which the 20-year-old's determination to leave has been made so clear, it is difficult to see a breakthrough between the two sides.
It appears from Ward's tone and Sterling's determination to leave Liverpool that another club have let it be known that they are ready to make public an offer which is too good to refuse when the transfer window opens.
Taylor's experience is that once disputes such as this become public, they are harder to resolve and will escalate, and the PFA's first advice to the Sterling camp would be that the situation should be handled more delicately and less publicly.
In the Suarez case, the players' union encouraged a rephrasing of the player's contract, which had left ambiguity about whether he was entitled to talk to Arsenal when they came in with a bid of a penny more than £40m.
PFA involvement requires the commitment of both sides to the mediation process and it is unclear whether such willingness exists in this case.
Since the PFA represent Manchester City's James Milner, whose contract issues have been handled with delicacy, Taylor could certainly tell Sterling that a move to a Champions League club offers no guarantees of first-team football.
But the union seeks only to get to the source of the dispute in such situations, establish one party's position on it and put it to the other.
The club's American owners, Fenway Sports Group, are thought to feel that a point of principle exists about players keeping to their contracts.
But their refusal to let Suarez leave was helped by the then 26-year-old player's desire to play, which saw him deliver a superb final season.
Forcing a more immature and emotional Sterling to remain on the sidelines if necessary is a far more risky strategy. Ward also allegedly told the Standard he "didn't care" about the club or its image, dismissed criticism by former players as "irrelevant".
There was more uplifting news for Reds fans yesterday when it emerged winger Jordon Ibe and defender Jon Flanagan had both signed contract extensions.
Ibe (19) has committed to a new five-year deal which substantially improves the terms he was on from his time with the academy.
Flanagan, who was out of contract this summer and is currently recovering from a second knee operation, has extended his stay by a further 12 months.