Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted his concern about the growing expectations placed on Raheem Sterling’s shoulders, following his starring performances for England.
Sterling, 19, had a breakout season at Anfield last term, scoring nine goals in 33 Premier League appearances to help Liverpool to a second-place finish, before standing out as one of the few bright spots during an otherwise disappointing World Cup campaign for the Three Lions.
Now established as one of the first names on the teamsheet for both his club and the national team, Rodgers believes the teenager possesses all the tools to become a world class talent, but remains anxious about how the added pressure to perform will affect him at such a tender age.
‘I think he needs protection. I have seen it over the years,’ he told reporters.
‘He is a wonderful talent, he is doing great for Liverpool but there are still a lot of things he needs to learn and he knows that and is a mature boy for his age.
‘He has grown into a wonderful young man and his consistency and performances are there and the period he has been in the team has been exceptional.
‘I expect him to keep progressing but in terms of where he is at I think we need to be careful.
‘You see so many players where there is a reliance on them, especially with England who, for whatever reason, tend to look for one player to put up on a pedestal and very quickly knock him down.
‘Raheem will make mistakes, he will have bad games but he will also have outstanding games and it is keeping the calmness with him because he still has a way to go.
‘He is certainly performing at a real high and consistent level.
‘England know as well as anyone they need a team so they don't have to focus just on Raheem.
‘It has to be the team and that will always be the winner for England when they come together and they were excellent against Switzerland [in their 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifier win] as a team.’
Having netted twice in Liverpool’s opening three league games, Sterling will be relied upon to provide more goals over the next few games, with a thigh strain ruling main marksman Daniel Sturridge out for around three weeks.