Raheem Sterling must settle in for Liverpool
It is one of the most sensible pieces of advice in English football: players should strive to make the papers on the back page instead of the front page.
It’s a hard lesson for some footballers, especially young ones. Even some of the older players – the Wayne Rooney’s, and Mario Balotelli’s of footy – sometimes struggle with it.
Raheem Sterling – at the tender young age of 20 – is just the latest young gun to have his name run through the mud. To be fair to the media, he deserves some of it.
This season has seen Sterling be given a vacation by Liverpool - which was a bizarre occurrence that still puzzles some fans and pundits alike – for who knows what reason. It has also seen him turn down a Liverpool contract offer, with the usual resounding claims that the player is greedy, and allegedly seen him get high on nitrous oxide – which is no laughing matter despite its common moniker, ‘laughing gas.’ He was also shown smoking a shisha-pipe in the Sunday Mirror
It is impossible to say what is going on in Sterling’s head, but as a young English phenom, he has to realize that he will always be in the spotlight for his behaviour – whether it is positive or negative – and he needs to act accordingly. Expecting a 20-year old superstar to never slip up is ridiculous, if not downright impossible.
Of course, Sterling could be acting more professional, and I am not defending his behaviour in the slightest. If anything, he is coming off as an immature brat who does not understand the responsibility he carries with a Liverpool side that needs an attacking talisman. Brendan Rogers’ veiled comments about Liverpool needing mature players who can focus on the task at hand is a not-so-subtle way of saying Sterling needs to smarten up.
The rumours around Sterling possibly angling for a move when his contract runs out is a little ludicrous considering he still has a lot of time left on his contract. It is likely that he is convinced he deserves more than 100,000 a week, and considering he has consistently been one of Liverpool’s best players over the last two seasons, he isn’t wrong. The issue is that paying him big money means that there will be less money to go around for other players, and for Liverpool to use to address other glaring weaknesses in their roster.
If Liverpool fail to keep Sterling – or fail to convince him to act more professional – it will damage the club’s reputation greatly. Liverpool are a big club, but they are not a giant anymore. They do not strike fear into the hearts of opponents like they did less than a decade ago. Losing Sterling would be a major loss to their young core of players, and he surely would not be the only one to go. Liverpool can’t afford to lose quasi-home grown Sterling and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard in the same span of time, because it would rock the foundations of the team in immeasurable ways.