Raheem Sterling and his talent have been much hyped about over the past couple of seasons. Ever since the Liverpool starlet scored five in one game against Southend, there has been no shortage of admirers of the youngster.
To be very frank, it was not just about one game. Sterling is potentially a Liverpool and England great in the making. He added weight to this argument when he featured for the England under-17s in the World Cup.
The former QPR man is still only 17, bearing the burden of such high expectations so early in his career. Brendan Rodgers realizes this and has been smart to absorb some of that pressure. He may consider loaning the young prodigy, as recent reports such as this one from ESPN indicate, as the best possible decision for player and club.
Sterling is a very deadly option to have on the bench for the last 20 minutes or so in a match. However, he needs to be starting to grow as a player. Rodgers must have or will consider all pros and cons before he reaches a decision and makes his call. For the moment, let us try getting into Rodgers’ shoes and analyse the pros and cons of loaning Sterling.
PRO: More 1st-Team Opportunities
Sterling is undoubtedly a talent that most sides in the English Premier League other than the Top Seven or Eight would love to have in their squad. There are teams that would offer more first-team opportunities than Liverpool to him.
The promoted sides would be the best option for the Liverpool Academy starlet. Sterling would get good experience playing at the top level. This would benefit both player and club.
CON: Lack of Pace and Wingers Currently at Liverpool
Liverpool have had a serious dearth of pace and natural wingers out wide in recent years. Despite this, there has not been enough serious thought put into rectifying this situation by recent managers. If Sterling is loaned, Liverpool would be left with only Stewart Downing, who had a forgettable debut season with Liverpool, and an injury-prone, outbound Craig Bellamy who may occupy the wings.
PRO: Mistakes of Sterling Will Not Cost Points to Liverpool
Sterling has not matured as a team player as of yet. He is liable to give away possession in crucial areas on the pitch, and defensively he is not very sound. With Brendan Rodgers having Top Four ambitions, he will always be hesitant to play Sterling. In such a scenario it is best that Sterling commits his mistakes elsewhere and learns from them before competing for the Liverpool first team.
CON: He Will Still Come up against Pros
The protection afforded so far to Sterling because of his small vulnerable build will not be in Liverpool’s hands once he goes out on loan. He will come up against tall and well-built professionals day in, day out.
Though his low centre of gravity and pace will always give him an edge in beating his larger counterparts, the possibility of him being tackled by seasoned pros is still huge. Sterling may get battered, injured or demoralised if not handled correctly.
PRO: Rodgers Will Not Be under Pressure to Give Him Action
The Liverpool boss will have one less player to keep happy on the Liverpool roster. Towards the end of last season, Kenny Dalglish faced a situation that Rodgers will not want to. The manager should have freedom to do what he wants, because ultimately he is responsible for a large part of the results.
Many fans wanted Sterling to be given more opportunities last season when there was nothing left to play for. Dalglish knew better, having first-hand information and viewing of Sterling, and decided three appearances off the bench was what the lad would get.
CON: System and Role Not in Liverpool’s Hands
Sterling will learn first and foremost in any system or role that he may be played. However, Rodgers would like such a talent to learn and quickly adapt to the way he would want him to play. This is not a huge disadvantage and can be minimized.
Selecting the appropriate team for Sterling is a must. Whether that team comes in for him and wants him badly is another question.