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Sterling & Liverpool? Why return won't happen, but LFC can enjoy the show

COMMENT: So could it happen? Could, after five years away, Raheem Sterling actually walk out on Manchester City and return to Liverpool...?

The symbolism would be devastating for City. From being the club on the up. The one a 20 year-old Sterling went to war with Liverpool to join. To now, five years on, the one their star man is clamouring to get away from.

But is it realistic? Well, in Liverpool's case, the short answer is... no. But this really isn't about the champions-elect. Yes, we know Jurgen Klopp will seek to re-sign Liverpool players - his attempts at bringing Philippe Coutinho back from Barcelona are proof of that. And yes, we also know Klopp is in the market for a player of Sterling's type - a step up from the likes of Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri, who are both due to depart this summer.

But too much wate.., ahem, whatever you want to call it, has run under this bridge. As it stands, even after those words of Sterling this week about again pulling on a Reds shirt, the obstacles needed to overcome to make this happen are just too big.

The fans will be a factor. Joe Gomez also. Indeed, there's some inside the game who claim Sterling's meltdown at St George's had more to do with the barracking he received at Anfield that weekend than anything Gomez may've said on the day.

England teammate Danny Rose, now of Newcastle United, said as much: "It's probably the first time I have sat back and actually realised and took note of how much the Liverpool fans dislike him.

"I take that for granted whenever I'm watching Raheem. I think he just gets on with it and maybe it had a part to play in whatever happened."

And then there's Sterling's agent, Aidy Ward, and the carnage he left behind as he engineered his client's departure. Branding Jamie Carragher "a k***". Declaring Sterling wouldn't pen a new Liverpool deal "even for £900,000-a-week". And criticising the club for letting stories get out in public, "there is no smoke without fire".

So as we say, the embers of those burned bridges are still smouldering. Even those Sterling claims this week were met with ridicule online.

"Would I ever go back to Liverpool? To be honest with you I love Liverpool," he stated.

"Don't get it twisted, they are always in my heart. It's a team that done a lot for me growing up so…"

This, coupled with an intermediary speaking with L'Equipe, fanned the flames of a potential return. But it's just too difficult to see how it can be done. Even disregarding the Kop, would Klopp ignore the feelings of Gomez? Again, you'd have to believe the answer would be 'no'.

But that's not to say Liverpool won't be enjoying this. Those comments from that anonymous agent were more about City than anything happening at Anfield.

Quoted by L'Equipe, the go-between insisted: "Even if Raheem is attached to Manchester City, he hasn't forgotten Liverpool, because that's where he became who he is as a man and as a player.

"Of course, there was controversy surrounding his exit, but since then, time has run its course and everything is possible."

Yes, an olive branch was offered, but this was a flier by Sterling's camp. The underlining message being: things are in play.

City's two season Champions League ban cannot be underestimated. Players don't join City to compete in the Champions League, they join in order to win it. Yet now that option has been taken away for two years of a short career. With no guarantees of an instant return - the ramifications of Financial Fair Pay, the lack of Champions League cash and rivals getting stronger, all potential threats to City's long-term plans.

That this story emerged in France is significant. Liverpool apart, any move for Sterling within the Premier League would be a step down. His advisers will be looking abroad - and word will have been sent out well before the L'Equipe quotes.

PSG, of course, is an obvious one. Particularly if Neymar is tempted back to Barcelona. Sterling would arrive as a like-for-like replacement on the pitch - and be expected to get close to the marketing impact of the Brazilian off it.

It's that commercial potential which has had the England international long on the radar of Florentino Perez, Real Madrid's president. Zinedine Zidane may have his doubts, but the coach's opinion will be overruled if Florentino can persuade City into selling.

And what should concern City - and lift any suitor - is that Sterling and his camp have previous. Liverpool know all about that. If two years without Champions League football is too much for Sterling, then City will have a problem.

Liverpool won't be a factor, there's too much to overcome for that. But they can still enjoy the show. They've been there, done that.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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