Raheem Sterling “should be at Liverpool” according to his agent, who has launched another impassioned defence of his client.
Sterling joined Manchester City from Liverpool in a deal that could rise to £49million this summer, bringing to an end a bitter transfer saga that saw Sterling’s attitude questioned and his motives examined.
Many believe the England international moved to Manchester City for economic reasons and that Ward had given his client bad advice, but his agent has refuted such claims.
“Let me tell you about advice,” Ward told the Daily Mail. “In that documentary Being Liverpool, when Brendan Rodgers pulled Raheem on camera – it went on TV – and said he’d be on the first plane home (from a pre-season trip to the USA) if he answered back to him again, what do you think Raheem did after that?
“He called me, telling me he had not said what the manager had accused him of saying. I listened, and then said to Raheem: ‘Go and apologise to the manager, and get your head down and work hard’.
“Brendan was so impressed that Raheem had apologised that he then put him in the first team. Do all these people think that was me giving him bad advice?”
Ward went on to defend his actions in securing Sterling a move, with the 34-year-old having described club legend Jamie Carragher as ‘a knob’ before engaging in a bitter exchange with the likes of John Aldridge.
Ward says that he has “no issue” with anyone at the club, and that his only problems lay with how Brendan Rodgers had treated Sterling.
“I was being criticised and my back was against the wall a bit, so I would have changed the way some stuff came out into the public domain, that’s my only regret.
“I became the bad guy, that’s how I was portrayed. It started from the PR behind Liverpool. There is no issue with the fans there, they don’t know the full story, and there are lots of good people at Liverpool.
“I had no problem with (chief executive) Ian Ayre for example. I have no issue with anyone but Rodgers: he had a massive job with massive funds. How did he do? Good coach, but as a manager I didn’t like certain things about how he dealt with Raheem.
“Fifty per cent of the players would probably tell you Brendan is not a good manager, but he is a good coach.”
Ward went on to almost lament the fact that Sterling will not be managed by Rodgers’ replacement, Jurgen Klopp.
“The new Liverpool manager probably would have been a great fit for Raheem – passionate, disciplined in the right way, new ideas, not afraid of trying new things,” he said. “He’ll do great at Liverpool.
“Would Raheem under Klopp have been a good scenario? Yes, 100 per cent, definitely, mainly because of the person Klopp is – the passion, the drive, the emotion, wanting to achieve.
“Raheem has all of this, but you won’t always see it outwardly. Working with Klopp – that could have been great. He’s going to get the best out of those players. It could have been a dream come true.”
In his first ever official interview since Sterling joined Manchester City, Ward discussed the events which led to the 20-year-old’s departure, with his agent adding that “he should be at Liverpool” currently.
“Raheem could’ve stayed, he should be at Liverpool. I think for me it was like he was being told to be a good boy and sign a contract. In December I spoke to Liverpool and said we’ll sign a contract if there is a buy-out clause – those clauses are now common practice. They said no to that.
“Then there was an underhandedness, there were sly remarks. In press conferences, Brendan told everyone Raheem would sign – why do that? I knew, Brendan knew and Liverpool knew there was an issue. Right now he probably should be a Liverpool player, but he’s not and he’s in a great place at City.
“Last season I thought subliminal messages were being sent to Raheem. Why would Liverpool play him at left wing back? Would you play Simon Mignolet up front? I think it was the game against Manchester United, he was played as an attacking midfielder, moved to right back, then up front, then left back, and eventually back to attacking midfielder. I was watching thinking: ‘Well this is interesting’.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster for Raheem for sure, but in all competitions, including for England, he still scored more goals last season than he had scored the season before (12 compared to 10 in 2013-14).
“The only club I didn’t speak to from all the super-powers was Barcelona – they were the only ones, and that was because they had a transfer embargo, so it was pointless.
“But you know Xavi came out and said Raheem is a world-class player in the making and could play at Barca in the future. In the end it was Manchester City and I thought he’s got a job to do, go and do it, and he’s doing it.
Ward admits that while Sterling has made mistakes, he believes he is unfairly treated by the media, and when asked of if he has any regrets in regards to the transfer saga, he added: “Yes I do and no I don’t. Let me explain. Look at Raheem now, he’s buzzing, he’s happy and he’s at a good club, with good players, a good manager, good coaches and good staff. He’s in a good place.
“So those who thought he would be a sub – what did they think of his performance last weekend? He’s scoring (six for club and country so far this season), he’s playing, what’s the opinion of those critics now? Are they trying to destabilise Raheem? Or back him so a young England player can compete at the very highest level in the Premier League, the Champions League and on the international stage?”
“Raheem is a young man. Doesn’t make it right, but he can learn. We make mistakes at that age. I can’t condone what he did, but he was a young man. Let him breathe and we’ll see how he goes and if he’s affected by the big move.
“If Raheem is caught in a situation when he does something silly off the field every paper picks it up. He scored a hat-trick and there is barely a mention of it. Let him breathe.”