For months there had been huge speculation as to which Premier League side Raheem Sterling would decide to join. It intensified even further in November, following his introduction at the start of the 2nd half for the England U16’s against Northern Ireland. It was an outstanding International debut and his performance that night changed the course of the game. I was told the news last Saturday morning and although it was inevitable, I have to say that any departure of that magnitude was still a huge disappointment.
There was confirmation on facebook later that day when Raheem wrote: “Thank you QPR for all you’ve done 4 me you’ll always have a place in my heart but its time 2 make history in a new chapter of my life at my beloved Liverpool FC.”
This was then followed by the news on the Official Site:
‘Raheem Sterling has joined Liverpool for an undisclosed fee. The QPR Youth product has been a regular in the QPR Under 18s this season and has also featured in the Reserves. The 15-year-old made his debut for the England U16s in November as a second half substitute against Northern Ireland, and has gone on to make two further appearances for Kenny Swain’s team.
QPR’s Youth Development Manager Steve Gallen said: “It is obviously disappointing to lose Raheem. I know him very well, having worked closely with him for a number of years. We wanted to keep him, but Raheem was keen to play for an Academy, and Liverpool is obviously an excellent move for him, as far as that is concerned. Liverpool’s bid matched our valuation of him, and we all wish him well. Raheem is a fantastic lad with a brilliant attitude. The players and staff are going to miss him around the place. I hope, and I firmly believe, that he will have a great future in the game.”
The Club wishes Raheem well for the future.’
Then there was Alan Nixon’s subsequent article in the Mirror which assuming that it’s all correct, put more meat on the bones:
‘Liverpool are giving 15-year-old sensation Raheem Sterling a stunning contract worth £300,000 to join them from QPR. The Kop outfit have pushed out the boat for the England youth star who is already rated the ‘next big thing’ after his appearances for club and country. Attacking midfielder Sterling chose to go to Anfield for football reasons, but his financial package is a stunner for a player of his age.
As a schoolboy, Sterling will only be able to earn the basic low wage, but part of the Kop contract includes a three-year ‘pro’ contract when he turns 17. And Sterling’s ‘camp’ will be given a giant signing on fee, worth around £200,000 and spread over the length of his deal at Liverpool until 2014. He is going into their Academy in a major coup. Liverpool are paying QPR a guaranteed £500,000 with further instalments based on the time Sterling spends with them – and his eventual breakthrough to the first team.
The deal is potentially the biggest for a player of his age and was decided without going to a tribunal. Sterling told Rangers he wanted to leave and would not sign any long contract with them. Sterling’s decision left both Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Fulham upset. All of them had tried to do a deal but found it hard to agree fees and terms with all of the parties involved. City are fuming at the result. Their offer of £1 million was higher than any rival bidder but the youngster fancied Liverpool instead.’
There was even talk that Jim Magilton wanted to feature him for the 1st team after his 15th birthday. His birthday came and went as did Magilton, so we will never know just how close Raheem was to beating Frank Sibley’s record. The week before the news broke, I watched him play at Harlington for the U18’s in the Youth Alliance Cup Quarter Final. At times, there were up to three Brighton players trying to mark him. The game went to penalties and my final memory of him was his coolly taken spot kick that sent the keeper the wrong way and put us through to the semi-finals. It wouldn’t of stopped Raheem Sterling leaving but when will the owners of our club take the resurrection of Youth Academy status seriously ?