Brendan Rodgers has rightly suggested his talented winger Raheem Sterling needs a rest after the 17-year-old played his 26th game of the season on Saturday.
Sterling was one of the few bright sparks for Liverpool in their 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa yet could do nothing as the Reds sank to their eight defeat of the campaign. He played a full 90 minutes despite appearing jaded at times and Liverpool boss Rodgers admitted his playmaker needs a rest.
“There is no doubt Raheem is one who does need that breather,” Rodgers told the club website. “I’ve thought about it over the past couple of weeks.
“He’s a naturally very, very fit boy but he needs that mental rest as well.”
At 17 Sterling has bags of energy to burn and won’t shy away from first-team opportunities if Rodgers hands them to him. Yet his meteoric rise into the Liverpool squad needs to be restricted somewhat if the Reds are to benefit from his talent in the long term.
Former Liverpool forward, Michael Owen, is a perfect example of a player who was overplayed at a young age. Like Sterling, Owen had pace on his side and would beat defenders for fun at 18 and 19 years old.
Yet one game too many seriously impacted on Owen and he suffered an awful hamstring injury against Leeds United in April 1999 after 43 appearances for club and country. Liverpool did well to sell Owen when they did for the striker never regained the pace that made him such a threat up front.
If Sterling continues to be played every week there is real danger his body will fail to recover, just like Owen. His muscles are still developing as is his game and Rodgers would do better to bring in a man in January to ease the weight off Sterling rather than making him play a +50 game debut season.
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