London – Brendan Rodgers has warned Raheem Sterling he will put his fledgling career in jeopardy if he does not “stabilise his life”.
The Liverpool winger was cleared of assaulting his former girlfriend at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court last week when the case against him collapsed.
But that was not his first brush with the law as he was questioned by police over an assault last November.
Liverpool rewarded Sterling with a five-year contract when he turned 18 last December and Rodgers has told him it is time to knuckle down and recapture the form he showed when he burst into the team in August 2012.
At his best, Sterling has an explosive change of pace and skill that can torment defenders, but Rodgers does not want him to be left with regrets, which is why he has reminded him of the standards that are required.
“He needs to have a clear mind in everything in his life,” said Rodgers. “We mustn’t forget he is 18. We have 18 and 17-year-olds on the bench at the moment. He needs to stabilise his life. He needs to understand the remarkable opportunity he has at one of the biggest clubs in the world and focus everything on his career.
“Once he does that and he is clear in his mind – once he has got no distractions – we can get to the level of performance of the first four to five months of last year.
“He is a good boy and had lots going on last year when he was put in the spotlight and he did well, but now it’s about him focusing on his football.”
Sterling is considered to be one of the brightest young players in the country and has already been capped by England – he made his debut in a friendly against Sweden – but he has not developed as quickly as many envisaged.
He was a substitute on Wednesday night at Old Trafford in the Capital One Cup but failed to make an impact against Manchester United.
The same was true when he came on during the defeat at home by Southampton last Saturday.
That performance came 24 hours after he had been in court but Rodgers insists he has never had any thoughts of withdrawing Sterling from the spotlight.
And the manager has promised that Liverpool will provide Sterling with the guidance and support he needs to fulfil his potential.
“I’d spoken to him before (he went to court) and been with him all the way through it,” said Rodgers.
“If I felt it was not the correct thing (to play him) I would not have had him involved. He was fine.” – Daily Mail