COMMENT By Coral Barry
Raheem Sterling has come in for some brutal criticism in recent months, none more harsh than Joey Barton claiming the former Liverpool man would be nothing without his pace.
To say Sterling has been disappointing so far in his Manchester City career and at this summer’s Euro 2016 is fair comment, but to insist without his pace he is not good enough to be a professional footballer is completely over the top.
Although the 21-year-old has so far struggled to make his mark on the England or City side, there is still a good reason he commanded a fee of £49million last year when he made the move to the Etihad.
Yes, the fact he was English and City sleep on golden mattresses helped to drive up his price-tag, but Sterling has shown in the past he has bundles of talent and that under the right coach he can fulfill that potential.
At Liverpool he was carefully bedded into the first team by Brendan Rodgers and it may be telling that his form dropped off when he fell out with his manager.
Despite enduring a stop start City career so far, he matched his goal and assist tally for his final Liverpool season with 11 goals and ten assists in all competitions in the 2015-16 campaign.
In his final year at Liverpool, Sterling was given the job of filling the hole left by the departed Luis Suarez and the injured Daniel Sturridge and played a big chunk of the season as a makeshift striker.
Rodgers helped him thrive in that role, despite it being an alien position for him and he showed he is more than capable of adjusting to different technical requirements of him.
Following the uncertainty and turmoil at City last season, the arrival of a new manager such as Pep Guardiola could be exactly what the youngster needs to get back on the path towards becoming one of the Premier League’s best.
An arm around his shoulder and plenty of guidance is what helped the then teenage Sterling break into the Liverpool first team and Guardiola can give the winger that kind of attention again at City this year.
His former team mate Daniel Sturridge insisted Sterling is one of the most talented players in the world, but also hinted that the Englishman needs a helping hand.
He said: “We have to groom him, nurture him and help him become one of the best players in the world.
“I believe he can, because he has all the tools for it. You are still finding yourself and you are not a grown man at 21.
“Just let him continue and he will come good. That is fact because he does have the ability.”
Sterling may be experiencing a difficult time in his career, but he is still on track to becoming one of the world’s best.
More importantly, he certainly has what it takes and has more than enough time in which to do it in.
In other Liverpool news, Reds fans react on Twitter to the news Sadio Mane is on his way and Sergi Canos is out the door.