Raheem Sterling's Liverpool transfer saga is sad and disgraceful
Liverpool should continue to play hard ball with Raheem Sterling, whose attempts to get away from Anfield represent a tawdry and sad tale of our times.
His agent Aidy Ward should have been fired the moment he publicly insulted club legend Jamie Carragher, calling him a "knob".
Ward, who is paid to further the interests of his client, has instead exposed Sterling to hatred, ridicule and contempt.
But let's not waste too much more time on him. Sadly, hard-nosed economics will almost certainly dictate that Manchester City will get their man in the end, probably for close to the £50 million asking price. Should that happen, we should all shed a tear for the modern game.
Of course, received wisdom is that clubs cannot keep players who no longer want to play for them, especially when their value is likely to fall in the future. But remember Liverpool sat tight two years ago when Luis Suarez was doing everything in his power to engineer a move away. That stance paid off. Suarez stayed and, the moment the deadline passed, buckled down to his job and ended up as Footballer of the Year, all but bringing the title to Anfield amid an avalanche of goals.
Could manager Brendan Rodgers and owner John W. Henry do the same again with Sterling, whose contract still has two years to run? Probably not. The winger's relationship with the club and its fans is surely broken beyond repair. He has shown Liverpool no loyalty and bridges have been burned.
Here is a 20-year-old who is turning down £100,000-a-week to play football for a famous club that has won 18 titles and five European Cups. His ego has allowed him to believe he has already outgrown a footballing citadel where he got his big break in the game (notwithstanding the work done by Queens Park Rangers when he was a schoolboy).
Who exactly does Sterling think he is? Perhaps he has started to believe his own hype. Sure, he is a top young talent whose pace and trickery make him a menace to any defence. He is rightly seen as a key man for Liverpool and England. But so far he has done next to nothing. Won nothing. His club had a mediocre season. His country flopped at the World Cup with him in the team.
And since the transfer saga started, he has mostly played like a drain. Who says he would be an automatic starter every week at Manchester City?
Sterling says his desire to move is nothing to do with money and that is it all about "winning trophies". In a quiet moment does it ever cross his mind that he owes Liverpool a little love in return for all the care and attention they have given him?
Does he really think he would be a millionaire England player without the help he has had from Rodgers and everyone else at Anfield?
Trophies? Certainly Liverpool are not the force they were, but that will never change if their top players keep wanting to find the exit. Sterling's stance is attracting widespread revulsion, symbolising a "me, me, me" culture.
So here's my advice to Raheem Sterling. Stay at Liverpool. Lead from the front as a top player. Get rid of your embarrassing agent and do another TV interview saying sorry to the fans. Then write another letter to Anfield. Not a transfer request this time, but a note containing a message of just two words.
Ian Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, is ESPN's lead soccer voice in the U.S. Reach him on Twitter @IanDarke.