AT just 17 years of age, Raheem Sterling is a revelation.
The money that Liverpool paid to QPR for him will seem like small change (even if they are paid the entire £5 million in the end) compared to the player we may well have on our hands – thanks again Rafa, for that.
However, running almost parallel to everything good that he’s done this season has been a story related to his off-field behaviour as well.
Beginning with news that young Sterling was demanding a move away last season because he wasn’t getting the first-team football he deserved. It’s one thing if you’re signed with the promise of first-team football, but it’s another if you’re a (then) 16 year old telling club legend Kenny Dalglish that you deserve to be in the team ahead of the likes of Kuyt, Rodriguez and so on.
Raheem also already has two children, with a possible third on the way. Now, I’m not suggesting that having children is a bad thing, but having two at an age when you’re barely an adult yourself kind of suggests that you haven’t quite been given the life lessons you should’ve.
Then there were the pictures on Twitter and in other social media of him looking a little worse-for-wear in a cheap-looking takeaway whilst out on the town. Which, while not something you’d be overly concerned about in a footballer usually (more so because it’s something we’ve come to expect), it is when that footballer is 17 and the legal drinking age is 18 and, in most pubs and bars (as in many supermarkets), you’re expected to look at least 25 or you’ll be hassled for ID – it’s a bit of a worry that he’s started the typical footballers off-field nonsense so young.
So when I woke up to further stories this morning about the young winger having been interviewed in connection with the alleged assault of a young woman in Toxteth earlier this week, things seemed to be taking a slightly more worrying turn.
At this stage, what happened and what actually happened is the knowledge of the police and those involved and I’ll reserve judgement until we actually know for sure. However, it does suggest that Sterling is clearly running in the wrong circles outside of football and is in dire need of a guiding hand to steer him down the right road.
It is very early days yet though, and many readers might accuse me of being a bit over-zealous in expressing concerns over Sterling’s personal life. He’s a young lad, after all, and young lads do dumb things. But in this day and age, with the 24/7 coverage of every aspect of top footballer’s lives utterly dominating the back (and front) page of every tabloid and numerous sycophants out there looking to take advantage of talented, affluent and naïve young men like Raheem, I really think that it is up to the club to step in and offer him support.
As an icon, legend and a superb role model at both club and international level, I can’t think of anybody better than Steven Gerrard to take Sterling under their wing. Newcastle tried something similar when Andy Carroll went to live with Kevin Nolan (however questionable!) but in Gerrard I think we’ve got the readymade man to ensure that Sterling develops properly.
Gerrard himself has had on and off-field problems of his own growing up but he matured with the right guidance from his manager’s; first Gerard Houllier and then Rafa Benitez, and there are few pundits or fans that would deny that he is the most suitable man to have as the face of English football, as England captain.
And if there is anybody to whom Sterling can look to for how to achieve everything in the game and do it with class and modesty, then I can’t think of anybody better to point our little maestro in the correct direction over the coming months.