After being chased by a plethora of Premier League clubs, you would be forgiven for thinking that Raheem Sterling’s move to Liverpool was purely based on money. With the rumours that the 15 year old kid has signed a £300,000 four year contract, you know that there has been a lot of negotiation between the player’s agent and all the interested clubs involved. Having too much, too young is always a great concern when a youngster like Sterling is given such a hefty contract and many players before him have fallen by the wayside after being touted as a new star of English football and given a large pay check. Motivation can become a factor with some youngsters, why bother playing to the best of your ability when you are paid so handsomely and can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle? It is not a concern I think we should have with young Sterling though.
The former QPR player was born in Jamaica but has played in many of England’s youth teams. After joining Rangers at 10 years old, some coaches have said that Sterling is at the same level as Wayne Rooney was in his development at 15, but more widely held comparisons have been made with Theo Walcott. A fast, pacey attacking midfield player who can “pass, shoot, head, score goals, tackle, defend” according to QPR head of development Steve Gallen, Sterling no doubt has tremendous prospects and it has been a great coup by Academy director Frank McParland to get his signature ahead of rivals Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. It certainly shows the ambition of the Academy with the acquisition of such young players, but the hope will be he doesn’t fall by the wayside like many before him.
At Liverpool’s Kirkby Academy especially, there has no doubt been a lack of real top class players coming through in recent years with Stephen Warnock one of the only true youth products to make it at the top level. The reorganisation of the youth structure last year, with the sacking and hiring of new staff is hoped to redress the lack of players breaking through into the first team. The signing of Sterling is certainly part of this restructuring process. After the signing of the 15 year old, Managing Director Christian Purslow was quoted by Skysports.com as saying:
“The success of our academy is vital to the future progress of the club and we have made clear that we will invest in outstanding young talent. Raheem is a very exciting young English player whose progress was being closely monitored by many other leading clubs and I’m delighted he’s joining us. Frank McParland and his staff have done a great job in bringing him to Liverpool.”
According to many who have watched the player, Sterling is good on the ball and has an excellent footballing brain. Let’s hope that intelligence translates off the field where he focuses on being a top class professional footballer rather than on the many other attractions the sport can provide. Money, girls, houses and cars are the undoing of many fledgling footballing careers but according to Steve Gallen, this should not be a problem with Raheem:
“He’s not interested in all the stuff around him – whether it’s in the street, the car park or wherever; he just wants to play football all the time”
If this is truly the case then Rafa Benitez and Liverpool may have bought a very talented footballer and a true bargain to boot.