Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville used his column in the Daily Telegraph to launch a stinging critique of Liverpool.
The Reds, who came second in last season’s Premier League, have endured a tumultuous season after selling talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona. The Merseyside club sit fifth in the table and have been rocked by revelations that Raheem Sterling wants to leave the club.
Sterling’s desire to leave has seen him widely criticised with some fans booing him at the club’s end of season award.
And Neville, who has been widely praised for his incisive, impartial punditry since retiring, believes that the criticism Sterling has come in for has been harsh.
“Has Raheem Sterling really let Liverpool down by suggesting he wants to leave or is he just a kid who wants to play football and win trophies?” asked the former United defender.
“There is a wider context to this story and it centres on how Liverpool have gone from being from one of Europe’s great superpowers to one which is in danger of becoming a provincial club.
The prospect of losing Sterling will be a major concern for everybody connected to the club, but the uncomfortable truth is that this is nothing new for Liverpool.
“Just look back over the past 10-15 years and count the number of players who have left Anfield to pursue bigger and better things elsewhere. Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez have all gone.”
Neville felt the need to add a disclaimer. “Despite my United past, I have enormous respect and admiration for Liverpool Football Club, but it is time to put the past aside,” he wrote.
“If they can get it right and look beyond the confines and restrictions that lie within their own city, Liverpool can remain one of the world’s most successful football clubs and Sterling and the others that have wanted to leave would be banging on the door to sign for them.”
However, that has not stemmed the tide on social media where Neville’s comments have drawn considerable criticism.
Neville also added that the mentality of the club as a whole over the last few decades has borne out a situation like the one they are now experiencing with Sterling.
“Liverpool have begun to realise the commercial value of their brand on a worldwide basis, but they are years behind the biggest European clubs and, for me, their problems – which have been given a public face this week by the Sterling situation – are a direct result of that failure to think beyond the confines of their city,” wrote Neville.
“It is a very emotional city and, again, in many ways this is a strength, but for Liverpool Football Club, all of those qualities have become weaknesses which have contributed to the position they now find themselves in with Sterling.” Liverpool, for their part, maintain that Sterling will see out his contract.
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