Aidy Ward, Raheem Sterling's agent, has allegedly confirmed his player won't sign a new Liverpool contract even if they offered him £900,000 per week to remain at Anfield. Instead, he has reportedly indicated Sterling will join Chelsea or Manchester City.
Ward is also said to have launched a stunning attack on Reds legend Jamie Carragher—who previously criticised the representative's handling of Sterling's contract situation—calling the Liverpool legend a "knob," reported by Benedict Moore-Bridger of the London Evening Standard.
However, Ward "denies quotes attributed to him in the Evening Standard and is now taking legal advice about it," per Sky Sports.
Sterling was scheduled to tell manager Brendan Rodgers he wishes to leave in a meeting on Friday, reported by Ben Smith of BBC Sport. However, James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo indicates the meeting isn't going ahead:
Ward's alleged comments certainly make the sit-down redundant: "I don't care about the PR of the club and the club situation," he said, per Moore-Bridger. "I don't care. He is definitely not signing. He's not signing for £700, £800, £900 thousand a week. He is not signing."
Matt Dickinson of the Times provided his response on Twitter:
Sterling previously provided Natalie Pirks of BBC Sport an interview—which was unsanctioned by the club, according to Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail—in which he suggested he isn't a "money-grabbing 20-year-old." During Sky Sports' Monday Night Football show, Carragher told his former colleague to "keep your mouth shut and get on with playing football."
He suggested there's "nothing worse" than a youngster and his agent "taking on the club." Carragher also had strong words for Ward, per Sky Sports:
"If there's one thing he needs to change, it's his agent," said Carragher. "The thing I don't like about it is Raheem's still a kid. For a 20-year-old kid to be taking on Liverpool Football Club over a contract, it just winds me up and angers me to the pit of my stomach."
Ward's reported retort will make headlines across the globe. From Moore-Bridger's article:
My job is to make sure I do the best with them (my clients). If people say I am bad at my job, or they are badly advised it does not matter.
Carragher is a knob. Everybody knows it. Any of the criticism from current pundits or ex-Liverpool players - none of them things matter to me. It is not relevant.
Ward allegedly suggests Liverpool are to blame for Sterling's decision to leave: "How did this all occur? There is no smoke without fire."
Moore-Bridger writes that Ward disclosed Chelsea and Manchester City as the "most likely" clubs to capture the Englishman's signature. Ward confirms Sterling won't move abroad to Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich but believes Premier League interest will be ripe, according to the report.
"I am not worried," said Ward, per Moore-Bridger. "Worried is making a decision not knowing what is going to happen. Every Premier League club will make a bid for him."
Even Manchester United, Liverpool's great rivals, have been linked with making a "sensational enquiry" for the player, reported by Dominic King of the Daily Mail. However, this approach has been quickly swatted away, according to King's report.
B/R UK's Sam Tighe recently looked at possible destinations for the versatile winger:
Sterling's form has suffered in recent times. He has only scored one and assisted one in his last 13 matches, per WhoScored.com. His energy appears to be flagging, and he's become anonymous in Rodgers' lineup, something that may lower his valuation if a sale is to go ahead.
He remains one of the Premier League's most talented youngsters, however. Jose Mourinho would likely drill defensive qualities into his game at Chelsea, making him a well-rounded player in the style of Eden Hazard and Willian.
At Manchester City, Sterling would most likely be given greater freedom to express himself in the final third. He wouldn't be a guaranteed starter for either but, judging the current squads, has a better chance at making it into the Etihad lineup. Sterling's London roots ensures Mourinho's men, and indeed Arsenal, will continue to be linked.
Arsene Wenger recently remained coy when asked about the player, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard:
Ward's alleged comments certainly don't help a situation that was just reaching breaking point anyway. At this rate, the quicker Sterling leaves, the better for Liverpool. His play isn't helping the team to win matches, and continued bickering from figures linked to the side isn't healthy.
While Liverpool are meant to be transitioning into a stronger team under Rodgers, losing one of the club's most important players for the second successive season will make the Northern Irishman's job much tougher. Although Sterling isn't as pivotal as Luis Suarez in an immediate sense, he has remained one of Liverpool's brightest hopes for the future since breaking onto the scene.