It is sobering to think that they are probably not yet born, the shimmering young man and woman who will take the central roles in Pirks/Sterling, the now inevitable Hollywood dramatisation of what was quite possibly the most explosive sporting interview of the last few days.
That movie, we hope, will not overlook the predictable knee-jerk efforts of the Establishment, of politicians and the media, as they have sought desperately to refocus the attention of the nation on such parochial matters as who might form the next government, to distract us from the fundamental question of just what is going on with the contract negotiations of Liverpool Football Club’s dynamic young False-9-cum-wing-back.
Obviously, it hasn’t worked. Pirks/Sterling was dynamite. Yes, if you watch the BBC’s “unsanctioned interview” (both Sterling and Iran, it is now clear, must be sanctioned), it is not immediately obvious, in 27 long and deeply, deeply tedious minutes, quite where the dynamite goes off. But the three full days of breathless analysis that have followed show clearly that it did.
Next time such an incident occurs, we hope Pirks and the BBC sports department might borrow a trick from their mates doing the leaders’ debates, who have now stopped pretending that the “Spin Room” isn’t where the real action is, and broadcast live from there too. Now, football, like politics, is all about what Raheem Sterling didn’t say, why he didn’t say it, what he did say when he didn’t say it, and why what looked at first like a rather innocuous assertion, that he’d rather wait until the end of the season to discuss his contract, was nothing of the sort.
Liverpool's best XI of the season so far
Liverpool's best XI of the season so far
1/11 Simon Mignolet - 6.75
Has vastly improved since a dreadful start to the season. Brendan Rodgers doesn't have much competition for the Belgian, with Brad Jones way below the standard required.
2/11 Emre Can - 7.18
The German has been a revelation in Rodgers' back three system. The youngster is a stern defender and brilliant at carrying the ball out from the back. Has a big future at the club.
3/11 Martin Skrtel - 7.35
Skrtel has grown to become the club's most dependable and solid defender. His three game ban will hit Liverpool hard, with £20m Dejan Lovren really struggling in his first season at Anfield.
4/11 Mamadou Sakho - 7.12
The French defender isn't always the most pleasing on the eye - he's average on the ball - but he is a committed and strong defender.
5/11 Jordon Ibe - 6.88
It's a real shame for Liverpool fans that the teenager picked up an injury just as he was beginning to make the position his own. No one else has been able to act so effectively down the right, especially Raheem Sterling.
6/11 Jordan Henderson - 7.23
The Liverpool vice-captain has really stepped up to fill the shoes of declining captain Steven Gerrard. The England midfielder can now claim to be the Reds' most important player and first name on the team sheet.
7/11 Lucas Leiva - 7.22
The defensive midfielder has only seen limited action due to injuries and being out of favour, but he has far outperformed Steven Gerrard. The former England captain only scores 6.87 according to WhoScored's rating.
8/11 Lazar Markovic - 6.76
Bought as a winger the Serbian has been excellent when playing in either wing-back role, although his season has also been stunted by injury. Alberto Moreno has improved and owns a rating equal to Markovic.
9/11 Raheem Sterling - 7.36
Raheem Sterling has to play in the front three. According to who scored his best marks come, surprisingly, when he plays on the left (7.90) or as a central striker (7.50). Sterling has struggled in a wing back role and the stats bare that out, with his rating dropping to just 6.47 when he plays in the role.
10/11 Philippe Coutinho - 7.32
Another player who has really come on in recent weeks, the Brazilian is outperforming big money summer signing Adam Lallana (7.00). The England man has been better after a slow start but Coutinho is one of Liverpool's best attacking threats.
11/11 Daniel Sturridge - 7.07
Daniel Sturridge only has four Premier League goals in this injury-hit season and that he is Liverpool's best rated striker shows the paucity of options. Liverpool's three other strikers - Mario Balotelli (6.58), Rickie Lambert (6.31) and Fabio Borini (6.25) - all rank in the bottom five of Liverpool's whole scored, and have just four Premier League goals between them all season.
Of course, you don’t have to have a BTEC in Media Studies to realise that when a football player takes it upon himself to call in the TV cameras and reel off the usual platitudes about not being “a money-grabber” it carries a different meaning to when he is forced to reel them off with the sweat of the match still fresh on his brow, as part of his employer’s contract with the broadcasters.
And, probably, we should sympathise with all the Liverpool-supporting football writers who have called what to the naked ear sounds like a full half-hour of unmitigated tedium “outrageous” and “offensive” and “disgusting” and “deplorable” and much more besides.
Yes, it must be deeply annoying, for Liverpool fans of a certain age, to part with more and more of your disposable income each year to stand on The Kop, where the glorious past feels ever more distant, emptying your shallow pockets out into the seemingly bottomless pit of wealth before you and getting less and less enjoyment in return. Then along comes Sterling, following his agent’s instructions, ogling for more.
But even so, of all the mutations that vast wealth has wrought on the game, this Mandelsonisation of football is among the most damaging. The positioning, the gesturing, the strategising and most corrosively of all, the public having so obviously wised up to it.
Twenty years ago, before football had devoured the whole sporting pasture, back when most kids in the playground could actually name a few sprinters or cricketers or rugby players, footballers’ contract negotiations simply didn’t matter. It is grim to wonder what heroic sporting endeavours have gone unnoticed as we obsess about a rogue football chinwag.
Is it possible that football could ever fully catch up with politics on the path of cynicism down which it now marches? At a time when much of the nation is having to reach deep within themselves to try to find a reason to care about a single word that any of its wannabe leaders has to say, it is worth not taking the risks too lightly.
We don’t have to allow ourselves to be used as a refractive mirror, to bend the arc of Raheem Sterling and his agent’s enrichment towards a brighter future. We could just turn our backs, or turn over the TV, and find something more interesting to watch.
The very real dangers of celebrating goals on Fifa 15
It is pleasing to note such weariness has not yet infected an Argentinian striker by the name of Thomas Conechny, who faces a race to get fit in time for the Under-17 World Championship in October, having sprained both ankles and suffered “heavy bruising” falling out of a 10ft window in Paraguay, midway through an overly exuberant goal celebration playing Fifa 15 on the Xbox.
Most footballers are already banned from high-risk recreational activities such as skiing and motorbiking. If Conechny’s mishap should add video games to the list he can expect to make some powerful enemies within the sport.
Unconcerned with such matters here, we merely applaud him.
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