Sterling doing himself no favours

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But the evidence is sure to be a concern when the world’s richest clubs assess the character as much as the class of an individual before parting with the £40million upwards Liverpool will demand to secure the services of a player like Sterling.

English football would appear to have yet another flawed talent, another player seemingly lacking the wit to make best use of the ability he has been blessed with. There is a reason why we rarely see the finest players on the planet caught in as compromising a position as Sterling found himself on Monday night. Becoming as good as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo — Gareth Bale even — requires more than ability alone. It requires the kind of professionalism and dedication that seems to be absent in English players too often photographed smoking or indulging in legal highs.

As the latest photographs show, this is not an isolated incident and he will be lectured on the dangers of nitrous oxide when he meets with Brendan Rodgers tomorrow.

It is more of a health issue than an image issue for Liverpool’s manager, as Sterling did at least opt for the privacy of his own home to suck on a balloon filled with nitrous oxide — unlike Tottenham’s Kyle Walker, for instance.

But Rodgers will also suggest to the unsettled 20-year-old that he needs to select his friends more carefully given the emergence of the video in the first place.

He should also heed the warnings of other talented players who have run into such trouble, like Jack Wilshere and Ravel Morrison.

Of course, it will not be the first time Rodgers has questioned Sterling over the company he keeps. He has publicly criticised the player’s agent for his role in the England international’s ongoing contract saga — and with some justification given how badly things have been handled.

But Rodgers’ criticism of Aidy Ward is limited to the issues over the contract because he recognises the agent as someone who, at times, has had a positive influence on a young man whose life has not been without its problems.

Ward is credited to some extent with the fact that Sterling actually gives his manager few concerns when he is at work. He is said to be polite and courteous to the staff, is always punctual and applies himself in training and matches and generally has a smile on his face.

For all the uncertainty over his future, Rodgers and the player have managed to maintain a healthy working relationship.

The relationship between Ward and Sterling is more personal than the typical agent-player dynamic.

They appear to be business partners judging by the company details of Trinity Goals Limited. While Ward has 80 per cent of the equity, the remaining 20 per cent is divided between Sterling and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

But Ward has an almost paternal relationship with Sterling, with the player affectionately addressing him as ‘Uncle Aidy’.

Clearly, Sterling needs that kind of guidance. His team-mates might joke that he has ‘more kids than caps’ when he admits to one daughter — he occasionally brings two-year-old Melody Rose into training — but denies a second child.

But Sterling’s own childhood was a difficult one. Born in Jamaica and raised for the first five years of his life in one of the more deprived districts of Kingston, he would eventually leave with his mother to live on one of the toughest estates in north London in the shadow of Wembley Stadium.

Back in Jamaica, when he was still only nine, the father he claims never to have known was murdered, reportedly shot dead in some kind of gangland ambush.

In London, Sterling had to leave his primary school to attend Vernon House, a school in Neasden for children with behavioural problems. ‘As a young kid I had anger issues,’ Sterling admitted in a recent interview, although teachers at the school could not speak highly enough of him. While Chris Beschi once had to warn Sterling he could end up ‘in prison’ if he failed to change his ways, he remembers someone who was ‘amazingly intelligent in so many ways; a brilliant thinker’.

Beschi told the Mail on Sunday two years ago that he would walk Sterling and his classmates to look at the building site that would soon become the new Wembley. It proved a source of inspiration, with QPR recruiting him when he was 10.

Steve Gallen, academy director during Sterling’s time at QPR, remembers a young player whose ‘mentality’ was ‘his strongest attribute’. He also described him as ‘a coach’s dream’. Gallen also praised Sterling’s mother — Nadine is a nurse — for her positive influence.

When Sterling moved to Liverpool at 15 he lived in digs with the couple he warmly refers to as his ‘house parents’. Eventually, however, Nadine moved to Merseyside, living with her son until around a year ago. Judging by recent events, she might need to move back in.

Ward should think very carefully before he makes his next move, because the last few weeks have amounted to a PR disaster.

There is nothing wrong with trying to secure the best deal possible for a player. Particularly when Ward can point to the fact that, right now, a player of Sterling’s value to Liverpool is earning roughly £6m-a- year less than Daniel Sturridge; £35,000-a-week compared with £150,000-a-week.

There was also nothing wrong with activating the trigger clause in Sterling’s contract, which entitled him to renegotiate his deal after a number of appearances.

By the end of last year, Liverpool actually thought they had reached an agreement at just shy of £100,000-a-week. And if Sterling looks at Sturridge and questions why there is still such a significant shortfall, he probably has a point.

Such a reaction would be no different to other marquee players at top clubs when news emerges of a colleague landing a big deal. Managers even joke of a queue forming at their office door.

Sterling has cause for complaint because he is a wonderful footballer. The academy staff at Liverpool consider him the most exciting winger to have come through the club’s system and Rodgers has described him as the finest young player in Europe.

Roy Hodgson was so impressed he unleashed him at last summer’s World Cup in Brazil, aged just 19.

It is simply the way Ward and Sterling have gone about their business off the field that has been so unpalatable. The unauthorised interview with the BBC; an article in the Sunday Times magazine when he said it was an ambition to have his own song ‘from the Kop’.

The Kop duly obliged on Monday night against Newcastle, informing the scorer of their opening goal that his ‘agent is a ****’. Sterling says it is not about the money, that it is about playing Champions League football and winning trophies. But don’t activate that trigger clause and make out you want a new contract if the real intention is to move to Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal.

Don’t take the dispute into the public arena if it’s not a pay rise you’re after, but a transfer.

If Ward’s intention is to take Sterling away from Liverpool this summer, the player is not making his job easy right now. Alarmed by recent events, Arsenal are already thought to be going cold on the idea. The agent will tell potential suitors not to read too much into the photographs, that Sterling is a good Christian boy who says his prayers every night and rarely, if ever, touches alcohol.

He drives a Range Rover; an expensive but sensible car. He was bright enough to buy a house when he was only 18 and generous enough to buy his mother a ‘beautiful house’ back in Jamaica.

Ward might also point out that the mistakes he has made are typical of any other 20-year-old.

Trouble is, Sterling is not like any other 20-year-old. He is a gifted footballer who needs to ask himself a couple of important questions.

Does he want to be the best? And if so, is he prepared to make the sacrifices? – Daily Mail

Original source: Sterling doing himself no favours

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