As we know by now, the Raheem Sterling saga is over. He’s at City. Phew.
But what happens now?
As the most expensive British player transferred in Britain, Sterling now has the unenviable task of proving that he’s worth nearly £50 million. Get transferred for that amount of money, and like it or not, people will expect you to deliver; and if you don’t come up to the standards, your career can go south very, very quickly.
My concern is that I don’t think Sterling has what it takes to come up to these ‘standards’. Now just to be clear, that’s not because I don’t think he’s very good. He is a good, promising player with a potentially bright future ahead of him. He’s just not £49 million good.
When a company sells a product and wishes to make a profit and keep their customer happy, there are essentially two sections to the sale – the front end and the back end.
The front end is everything that happens pre-sale – the marketing, the literature, the sales pitches; all that stuff. This process is designed to prove to the prospective customer that they are making a smart decision with this purchase.
Once they’ve made that decision, the back end comes into play, and unfortunately, the back end has been the undoing of many a company that’s good at the front-end stuff.
Unless your back end is rock solid, your customer is unlikely to view you favourably, however good you are at the front end. In essence, you’ve got to deliver value, based on how you sold the product.
The reason I make this analogy is that Sterling finds himself in this exact position at City. The front end was handled with absolute aplomb.
The right noises about wanting to win things, the tantrums, the refusal to turn up, the leak about not getting on with Rodgers – all of these things created a picture of a player who felt that he was too good for Liverpool and that he deserved to be playing for a better club.
And, based on the fact that they signed the cheque, it looks like City bought the front end. Whatever Sterling and his agent did, it worked, and after a saga, Sterling made the move from Liverpool to City.
The question now is – will the back end be enough?
Amid all the media hysteria and hype, I feel that the most important, core question was not asked anywhere near enough: “How good is Raheem Sterling?”.
Because the thing is, genuinely, the answer is, “pretty good”.
Not a world beater; not even one of the Premier League’s best players. But now one of the most expensive.
Sterling may have potential that means £49 million turns out to be a sensible outlay for the player, but right now it looks like ludicrous business.
The issue for the player is that he won’t have too long to deliver the goods. Think back to the product analogy – you wouldn’t wait months for a product you paid handsomely for to start working, you’d expect it to deliver instantly and on command. The best products in the business, the players like Aguero and Costa, do exactly that. So far, I’ve seen nothing that tells me that Sterling is of that ilk.