Liverpool's Raheem Sterling Needs to Handle Pressure of Being England Golden Boy

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Raheem Sterling of England dribbles past Andrea Pirlo of Italy during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

England are out of the World Cup, albeit with the lowest of low-key games to play on Tuesday, and so whilst the post-mortem rages around the country, the longer-term lessons will be somewhat ignored for now.

It could be, however, that when this tournament is examined in the weeks and months to come, England will decide that it was their encouraging if somewhat naive performance in defeat to Italy which serves as a reference point for the future.

They were quite impressive for some of it, after all.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 14: Raheem Sterling of England controls the ball against Gabriel Paletta of Italy during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pre
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Chief amongst those impressing was Raheem Sterling, with Roy Hodgson allowing the 19-year-old the freedom of the No. 10 role he so enjoyed in the latter months of Liverpool's season.

Hodgson was to curiously take away that freedom for the Uruguay game, despite the plaudits for Sterling's display in Manaus, but come August when the Premier League begins again and the summer in Brazil seems a long time ago, which game do you think people will choose to remember?

It'll be the Italy one, and so Sterling will be a marked man.

The teenager has already experienced two rapid rises in his career, but he's about to realise that the third dwarfs the others by comparison.

Whereas the first saw him thrust into the Liverpool team as a 17-year-old at the beginning of the 2012/13 campaign, then the second led to him being arguably the key figure in a team chasing the Premier League title, he's now going to start the new season as one of the star men of the division, regardless of nationality.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on April 20, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty
Michael Regan/Getty Images

That being said, Sterling's displays both against Italy and at the end of Liverpool's campaign—but largely against Italy—have led to the almost inevitable link with Real Madrid, with the Daily Mirror citing Spanish source's claim that the European champions see him as a replacement for Angel di Maria.

You can take that one with enough pinches of salt to fill the River Mersey, but what is clear is that as he prepares for a first season of Champions League football, Sterling's star is rapidly on the rise.

That will bring with it new pressures, both on and off the field, and Liverpool will need to handle their young hope with care as he returns to their fold.

6 May 1998:  Michael Owen of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the FA Carling Premiership match against Arsenal played at Anfield in Liverpool, England.  The match finished in a 4-0 win for Liverpool. \ Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Although he didn't make as much of an impact at the tournament, the hype surrounding Sterling's display against Italy could perhaps be compared to the buzz around Michael Owen post-France '98.

Back then, the teenage forward returned to the Reds and scored 23 goals to end the campaign as the club's top scorer, although the vultures from other clubs were circling for much of that time.

Lazio were persistently linked with him—with stories such as this one in Sports Illustrated becoming commonplace—but there was never any real indication he'd leave.

The same will probably be true of Sterling, and fortunately for the teenager, he's got a club manager who will be able to guide him with care and attention. You get the feeling that he wouldn't be in this position in the first place if he didn't.

Brendan Rodgers will now be doing everything he can to manage the expectations around a footballer who has had a quite staggering six months. He'll try and take him out of the limelight, perhaps frequently turning to Philippe Coutinho or Jordon Ibe or a new signing.

Regardless of that, though, Sterling's will suddenly be the face you see staring back at you from billboards or on television screens. He is a good story. A kid who could have become a teenage tearaway but is instead starring for Liverpool and England.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 27: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers gives instructions to Raheem Sterling during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 27, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Ge
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Three Lions will look to him to inspire the new generation of players that they seemingly call for after every single tournament failure, with the likes of Steven Gerrard and maybe even Wayne Rooney fading into background.

Taking all of that on what are still remarkably young shoulders will be a huge task for a player who won't hit his 20s until December.

Sterling plays as though nothing fazes him, though. Not Anfield, not a title challenge, not Andrea Pirlo.

Maintaining that enthusiasm and vigour will now be crucial as he approaches an even greater level of fame, but if there's anyone who can do it, then it's a kid without a care in the world.


    Picks and Tips for Friday's World Cup Games

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Picks and Tips for Friday's World Cup Games

    Tom Sunderland
    via Bleacher Report

    Mexico Look to Back Up Huge Germany Result vs. South Korea

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Mexico Look to Back Up Huge Germany Result vs. South Korea

    Matt Jones
    via Bleacher Report

    Made in London: Nigeria's British Connection

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Made in London: Nigeria's British Connection

    Tom Williams
    via Bleacher Report