- Raheem Sterling has rejected a new contract worth £100,000-a-week
- Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers says Sterling won’t be sold this summer
- His achievements at 20 are not on the same level as some Anfield greats
- Steven Gerrard won three trophies in the first year out of his teens
- Michael Owen had scored more than 50 career goals for Liverpool
- Sterling has a long way to go if he is to fulfil his huge potential
Those who achieve greatness are high achievers from an early stage. They know this better than most at Anfield.
Take Michael Owen. By the time he was 20 in December 1999, his list of accomplishments read like the wish-list of many footballers. He had been named PFA Young Player of the Year (1998), scored one of the greatest World Cup finals goals and won BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
There were also 18 England caps and he had passed 50 career goals for Liverpool.
Raheem Sterling, pictured in training on Thursday, has rejected a new contract worth £100,000-a-week
Sterling trains with his Liverpool team-mates at Melwood as the Reds prepare to face Arsenal on Saturday
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers (right) insists that Sterling will not be sold in the summer transfer window
Then there is Robbie Fowler. Another PFA Young Player of the Year award winner (1995), he had entered the record books by scoring the fastest hat-trick in the Barclays Premier League on his way to 50 goals by his 20th birthday and won his first major honour (the 1995 League Cup).
Others had similar impacts. Steve McManaman ended his first season as a Liverpool regular with a Man-of-the-Match performance in the 1992 FA Cup final win over Sunderland. Steven Gerrard’s first year out of his teens saw him collect the League Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup.
That is the barometer by which those on The Kop judge prodigies. So let us now look at the CV of Raheem Sterling, who was 20 on December 8 last year. It currently reads: Liverpool Young Player of the Year 2013-2014 and Europe’s Golden Boy 2014. There are also 14 England caps and one goal.
Steven Gerrard had won three trophies in the first year out of his teens including the FA Cup and UEFA Cup
Michael Owen scored this memorable goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup when he was just 18
Owen had been named BBC Sports Personality of the Year and scored over 50 goals when he hit 20
Steve McManaman lifts the FA Cup in 1992 after helping Liverpool defeat Sunderland at Wembley
Robbie Fowler was PFA Young Player of the Year in 1995 and scored the Premier League’s fastest hat-trick
Good? Yes. Great? No. Just 18 months ago he couldn’t even get a start for Liverpool. This should not come across as an attempt to belittle Sterling’s talents — he is undeniably exciting — but he has become embroiled in a storm that has made him out to be on par with the four men named above.
His comments in that ridiculously misguided BBC interview about wanting to challenge for trophies in his career and playing with the best players evoked memories of the Luis Suarez affair. He is absolutely not in the same sphere as the Uruguayan.
‘That was probably Raheem looking over the course of the next 15 years if he plays to 35,’ Brendan Rodgers observed on Thursday. ‘Players now look to later in their career and their life. But I can only focus on here, Liverpool and what is best for now. As a 20-year-old, he’s not at that level.
‘We think that it will be best for him here and we will work hard to ensure he stays.’
Sterling receives Europe’s Golden Boy award ahead of a game against Arsenal in December last year
Sterling was named Liverpool’s Young Player of the Year for 2013-14 but he is miles behind Luis Suarez
Sterling’s first and only England goal arrived against Lithuania in a Euro 2016 qualifier last Friday
Liverpool shouldn’t have to work hard to keep Sterling. His advisors have every right to look to maximise their client’s earnings but, somewhere and somehow, they have lost sight of the bigger picture and a series of dreadful judgements have been made.
The first signs that all was not well came on October 3 when Sportsmail ran a back page story with the headline ‘Kop fight to keep Sterling’. That the story came after Sterling had been anonymous in a 1-0 Champions League defeat in Basle didn’t do him any favours.
There have been a raft of similar stories, a lot of which have either coincided with games that have gone against Liverpool — such as when their fate in the Champions League was condemned in December — or ones in which he has played well, England against Lithuania being a prime example.
Sterling, pictured in action against Chelsea, has only scored six Premier League goals so far this season
Sterling is expected to start for Liverpool when they take on Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday
The former QPR youngster is wanted by clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich
As he looks to steer Liverpool into the Champions League and win the FA Cup, Rodgers could do without this sideshow unfolding and so, more than anyone, could Sterling. If he wants to get to the level of Owen, Fowler or Gerrard, he needs to influence the games that matter.
He has been regularly championed for his strength, pace and trickery after being given a platform on which to thrive by Rodgers. Deep down, Sterling will know what his manager has done for him.
Now is the time to pay him back — and show potential, perhaps, can become something more substantial.
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