Liverpool look set for another summer of transfer upheaval after rejecting a £25m offer from Manchester City for Raheem Sterling.
It is understood that the bid, which could rise to £30m with add-ons, was not even seriously considered by the Anfield hierarchy as they value the 20-year-old, who has 24 months left on his current deal, at £50m-plus.
The club has been involved in transfer sagas the previous two summers with Luis Suarez initially failing to manufacture a move away before, 12 months later, securing a £75m transfer to Barcelona with whom he has just won the Champions League to add to a domestic double in Spain.
It seems likely the Reds will face a similar scenario with Sterling as City are unlikely to be deterred by the rebuttal.
On Wednesday their chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak promised “high-quality” signings this summer – and it will also alert the interest of neighbours Manchester United who were first to make their interest in the player known.
However, Chelsea and Arsenal – offering a return to Sterling’s home city – have also been linked while new Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez, who brought Sterling to Anfield when he was a 15-year-old at QPR, has also expressed his admiration for the forward.
If the Reds are to get close to their valuation they realistically need a bidding war to start between some or all of the parties but they believe they remain in a strong position despite Sterling turning down a £100,000-a-week offer in January.
That was later followed by comments from agent Aidy Ward suggesting the player would not sign a new contract even for “£900,000-a-week” – comments which prompted Liverpool to cancel a scheduled meeting to reopen talks which were put on hold earlier in the year.
But last month manager Brendan Rodgers said he expected Sterling to remain at the club and, at that point, they were still planning talks before the end of the season to try to extend his stay – even after Ward’s comments threw a spanner in the works.
“Raheem has two years left and I expect him to see that two years through and continue to behave as immaculately as he has done,” he said.
Sterling has maintained throughout negotiations that his issue was not about money, stating in an April interview not sanctioned by the club, that he did not want to be viewed as a “money-grabbing 20-year-old”.
Liverpool’s sixth-place Premier League finish means they cannot offer him Champions League football next season, unlike all those interested in signing him, and a disjointed campaign on the pitch personally has not helped.
The forward enjoyed his best form as a left-sided attacker alongside Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge the season before last in the Merseysiders’ title near-miss but in the campaign just finished he found himself shunted between right wing-back, right wing, a number 10 and as a central striker.