FOR once, I was really pleased to read a tweet from a Liverpool player this week. It was great to see Raheem Sterling come out fighting and reject the Daily Mail’s latest untruth. The ever so slightly melodramatic newspaper had alleged that the 17 year old wanted the princely sum of £50,000 per week in order to extend his Liverpool contract.
Realistically, I don’t know what Sterling wants. That’s between him, his agent and the club.
But I know a talent when I see one, and I believe that it is essential that we tie this young man down to a long term future with us. Because if we don’t, somebody else will. This lad is going to play for England many times, and I am very optimistic he will go on to play even more games for Liverpool.
As time goes by, more and more people are starting to sit up and take note of Sterling. His rise to the first team squad hasn’t been what you’d call meteoric. I personally thought it would be quite obvious that he would get called into the first team squad sooner rather than later when Dalglish was made manager. Having already brought through Jack Robinson and Jon Flanagan (admittedly more through necessity than immediate desire) and being a regular at the Academy, Dalglish knew exactly what sort of a talent he had on his hands.
One of the most devastating individual performances I’ve ever seen from a youth team player was from Sterling when he tore Southend apart, scoring 5 goals in a 9-0 victory. Direct pace, skill, trickery and clinical finishing.
Making his debut against Wigan at Anfield in March, Sterling was identified by new manager Brendan Rodgers this summer as someone who may be available for loan. How times change. Sterling is now a starter week in, week out. Not very many 17 year old players have managed that in the Premier League. He brings something we don’t have a lot of – that dynamic burst of pace and that high octane speed that can get us on the front foot very quickly. He’s ideal to play in that front three that Rodgers wants to use because he can be utilised in all three positions.
I literally have no concerns about giving Raheem a new deal. It’s a very important contract, because if he kicks on as we all expect him to, we will be fending offers away left right and centre if we don’t pick up ourselves. If he isn’t as good as we think then we might have a player on wages unbecoming of his squad status. I can name a few players like that *cough* Joe Cole *cough cough*! But from what I’ve seen so far Sterling has the world at his feet. He just needs to improve his decision making and his final ball.
But he’s 17, he’s still just a kid. And kids will make mistakes. At the end of the day his exposure to football at this level cannot be a bad thing. By the time he turns 18, barring any setbacks such as injuries, he is going to have close to 30 games under his belt in the first team. That is a huge number of games for someone that age.
The old adage is “if you’re old enough, you’re good enough.” I had no qualms about Sterling’s rise to the first team squad to now a starter. I have no qualms about putting him on higher money. It’s players like this that FSG want at the club. Sterling is hard working, committed, talented, skilful and a pocket rocket for us to have on the counter attack. We can all see that the raw talent is there, he just needs work. And he is playing with some top footballers. Get his new contract sorted and let the lad run loose, because it will be exciting to watch.
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