Following the controversial decision of Raheem Sterling to declare himself ‘too tired’ to start in England’s recent 1-0 victory over Estonia on Sunday evening. Is this another case of too much, too young?
In the past 18 months, the 19 year old Liverpool sensation has been making all kinds of headlines, for his remarkable performances for both club and country. Sterling was a vital part of Brendan Rodgers exciting Liverpool team which in many people’s eyes should have claimed their first league title since the 1989/90 season. By all means, playing for a club like Liverpool will attract attention from all walks of the footballing world, especially with Sterling being English. After such a stunning breakthrough season and with the World Cup in Brazil just around the corner expectation grew and grew. This is natural, when a player of Sterling’s talent is blossoming at such a rate, that now still a teenager is seen to be the main man for Liverpool and England.
In the past, many a player with Sterling’s ability has faded from their super-stardom in their late 20’s. These players’ all were thrown into their club and Country team’s at a very young age, still developing both physically and mentality. Understandably, when a young player bursts onto the scene excitement grows which is completely normal in all sports not just in football. But, once a star has been found that is it, there’s nowhere to hide. For these young adults, it can sometimes be too much to handle, as Sterling has found out this season. The extra pressure on his shoulders to live up to heights of last season successes. In addition, the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Liverpool’s poor start to the current campaign will only play on the young man’s mind. Furthermore, recent contract talks and rumours of a big money move to giants Real Madrid and PSG would distract any player not just Sterling.
Michael Owen is perfect example, which can relate to the pressures and strains of Sterling’s current situation. He too, was a teenager phenomenon who was expected to play every single game, and perform to standard’s previously set. Owen’s career was hampered by injuries from his mid-20’s up until he retired. Owen was quoted saying “My body made me pay for pushing it to the limit too often, people laugh when I say that I am not naturally injury prone. It is my genuine opinion that I have become injury prone due to overplaying at a young age, suffering an injury as a result and then having a dreadful rehabilitation at such critical time”. However, Owen was not the only former high profile player who has experienced ‘too much, too young’. Brazilian World Cup winner’s and former Ballon d’Or winner’s, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo suffered similar problems. Thrust into the limelight as 17 year old’s, undoubtedly because of their extraordinary talent, with both experiencing underwhelming finishes to their careers.
Fundamentally, it was maybe right for Sterling to be honest about his tiredness, to protect both himself and Liverpool from the dangerous of burn out. Surely, we have other player’s more than capable of performing against Estonia. But as football fans, we have to remember that Raheem Sterling has another decade at least of playing for England. The last thing anybody wants, the media included, is for Sterling to over play at such a young age. This could eventually ruin his natural development and his awe-inspiring potential. Clearly, this will benefit our national team, along with giving us as viewer’s the satisfaction of watching an Englishman terrifying some of Europe’s best defenders. His time will unquestionably come, but it doesn’t have to be right now.