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Rodgers confirms Sterling move, plays down rift

England’s Raheem Sterling

England’s Raheem Sterling

BANGKOK: Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed yesterday his team plans to sell Raheem Sterling to a rival club as he played down reports of an acrimonious rift over the restless England forward. Speaking in Bangkok where Liverpool have begun a pre-season overseas tour, the Northern Irish manager confirmed Sterling would leave, subject to passing medical tests. He declined to confirm where the 20-year-old was going or how much for, but British media say Sterling will go to Manchester City in a deal worth over £49 million ($76 million, 68 million euro). “The club has agreed with another club a deal for him to be transferred. Subject to a medical that will go through,” Rodgers said. “Contrary to probably the last week or so in terms of what was written, Raheem and I have always remained very strong in our relationship and have been right up until we left. So there’s no issue there,” he added.

His comments confirm the closing stages of what has become this summer’s most acrimonious transfer. Sterling’s refusal to commit to Liverpool has angered the club’s supporters, who jeered him at an end-of-season awards dinner. Rodgers’s relationship with Sterling cooled considerably when the player turned down a lucrative new contract worth £100,000 per week in January this year.

Two months later, Sterling’s relationship with the Liverpool hierarchy became even more strained when, in an interview with the BBC given without the club’s approval, he confirmed he had rejected the Reds’ latest contract offer. Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward, then added to the growing rift by saying his client would not sign a new deal with Liverpool even for “£900,000 a week”. English football commands a huge following in Thailand and it is not uncommon to see entire skyscrapers in Bangkok decked in advertising featuring stars from the premier league. Despite being named in the 30-man squad for the pre-season tour, Sterling was left behind by Liverpool when the club flew out to Thailand, where his teammates will play the Thai All Stars on Tuesday night before moving on to Malaysia and Australia. Players were greeted with traditional flower garlands on arrival at a luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok as fans in the football obsessed country jostled for a glimpse of their favourite players.

New signings James Milner, Danny Ings and Nathaniel Clyne are all on the trip. Rodgers said his focus was on players who have joined his squad rather than dwell on those who have chosen to leave. “At this moment in time the interest is with the players that are here. The key for us is that it is the overall team that is important,” he said. Sterling joined Liverpool from QPR’s academy in 2010 and has since scored 23 goals in 129 senior appearances for the club. He made his senior England debut in 2012, scoring one goal in 16 appearances. Liverpool finished sixth in the Premier League last season and so missed out on the Champions League, whereas runners-up City have qualified for European football’s elite club competition. — AFP

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This article was published on 13/07/2015