For goodness sake, let Raheem Sterling be Raheem Sterling.
Why is it that we have an insatiable appetite to build potential stars into something they’re clearly not?
Not only does this add unnecessary pressure on the player themselves but it lures everyone else into a false sense of expectation.
Sterling, least we forget still only 19-years-old, has seen himself compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, Marc Overmars (by England team mate Wayne Rooney, believe it or not) and David Silva – to name just a few.
The latter of those – suggested by that “well-respected” Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp – is perhaps the most lazy of all. For anyone that has studied the features of Sterling’s game (and indeed, that of Silva’s) will understand the quite blatant differences in their play.
The Liverpool teenager – it must be said – is, first of all, still very raw. His primary asset? His searing pace, of course. A trait that you wouldn’t exactly associate to the accomplished Spanish playmaker, Silva.
Silva is a player who likes to patrol in behind the opposition midfield, yes, in some similar areas to those that Sterling has operated recently – yet in complete contrast. Silva likes to knit the play together, his awareness of space and those around him offer him the ability to deliver one of his trademark incisive through balls. You could argue that his deliberate style suits a slower build-up of play.
The same can’t be said of Sterling, however. His strength lies in speeding up transitions – helping to turn defence into attack with the drop of a shoulder.
The point I’m trying to make is that while they may sometimes appear to take up similar positions on the field, their attributes are very much black and white.
It makes comparisons – like Redknapp’s and many alike – ever the more infuriating and bewildering.
Why should we compare Sterling to someone he isn’t and ever likely to be?
The title of “England’s best player” is another tag that has been lethargically labelled onto Sterling in recent weeks following (and let’s just take some stock here) the completion of his ninth cap for national side.
After a man of the match performance in the friendly win over Norway (when, admittedly, nobody really covered themselves in glory), Sterling assisted one of Danny Welbeck’s two goals in the qualifying win over Switzerland.
Yet, if we were to be honest about Sterling’s performance in that match then it would only be fair to say that he was often very careless in possession. If there’s an improvement to be made in Sterling’s game then it’s most certainly his decision making – and that was very much evident in Basel.
Despite that, his pinpoint cross for Welbeck’s opener will be the takeaway for many observers – leading to only further hype around his future stardom.
Perspective is needed.
By all means, Sterling is evidently a talented individual with the attributes to excel for club and country for many years to come. But he’s not the finished article. Far from it. And until that happens it is unfair to speculate on what Sterling “could be” or indeed associate him with over-inflated comparisons right now.
England’s best player? Sterling isn’t even Liverpool’s best English player.
Appreciate Sterling for being Sterling and perhaps he might just become something special.