Everybody seems to want to tell Raheem Sterling what to do. If people aren’t telling him he can’t go on a winter break, they’re telling him he’s ungrateful for not immediately accepting Liverpool’s initial offers for a contract extension. Then came the bogus “scandal” that popped up after Sterling was photographed smoking. Everyone seems to know what’s best for Raheem Sterling, except, apparently, for Raheem Sterling.
The latest member of the Save Sterling life-coaching society is Liverpool team dad Steven Gerrard, who offered some advice for the young winger. On the surface, the advice sounds great, but it becomes comical when you read between the lines.
Gerrard is advising that Sterling not be too hasty to leave the warm family confines of Anfield to strike out out his own in pursuit of his dreams at a bigger club:
“The danger for younger players is they want it all too soon and chase it, and become just one of a number at another club. They could go to another club and don’t get that love and attention they get here. It would be best for him here.”
Sounds great, right? An elder statement of English football looking out for the continued success of his teammate. Gerrard is a veteran who has seen upstart youth come and go, arriving with hope and fanfare only to be lost in a swarm of blah blah blah.
Thing is, what does Steven Gerrard actually know about a young player’s ambitions to move on from Liverpool in pursuit of bigger and better things? He’s the same man who pulled out of a move to Real Madrid at the last minute in 2005. When it comes to leaving the nest, is Gerrard a sage guru, or the old former prom king at the end of your local bar who never left his home town?
“My advice to Raheem is he needs a manager who is going to play him, to coach him, to believe in him. I think there is no one better for him than Brendan Rodgers.”
“For me, I am always going to be biased towards this club. I think he should sign a new deal. Brendan is a fantastic man manager, he puts a lot of time and effort into every player in the squad.”
Stevie G presumes that his boy Brendan will still have a job with Liverpool by the end of the summer, let alone by the time Raheem Sterling has maximized his developmental potential in a year or two. Going beyond that, what do these opinions say about the value of playing at Liverpool? If Gerrard doesn’t believe that Sterling is ready to walk into a regular place elsewhere, than what does his first-name-on-the-sheet status say about the reality of Liverpool as a club? None of their fans want to hear (or admit) that in 2015, Liverpool’s place in the global market is one of a stepping stone to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich – or worse, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Gerrard’s got one foot out of the door, feels some Los Angeles sunlight on his toes, and suddenly he’s portraying the only club he’s ever known as nothing better than “good enough”, whether he meant to or not. This is no way for a sacred calf/brand ambassador to behave.
If you’re going to pitch Sterling on staying at Anfield, do it with lies. Feed him a cliché and say “I believe in the future of this project” or whatever. Not this.