Liverpool must sell Raheem now
Sterling is no Suarez and the implacable kid is replaceable
Raheem Sterling has turned into that kid in the supermarket who keeps crying because daddy won't buy him any more sweets.
Irritated bystanders expect the humiliated parent to intervene, but he waits, desperately hoping to save what's left of his face.
But there's almost nothing left.
Liverpool lose face the longer this nauseating saga endures.
They must sell him now.
Sterling is not the Messiah. He's not even a very naughty boy. He's a reasonably gifted winger drunk on his own ego.
In essence, he's a cliche; the latest tarnished bauble to bounce off the greedy Premier League production line.
The encircling vultures clinging to his coat-tails are whispering sweet nothings, throwing more sums at him than an overworked maths teacher and inflating his sense of self-worth.
He's fallen for the hype. He could be the next Gareth Bale, the next Cristiano Ronaldo, the next Lionel Messi; the next stratospheric superstar dipped in chocolate so he can eat himself.
But to slip Sterling through the back door of that pantheon is a disservice to those men's achievements.
Ronaldo's obscene wealth and fame leave him with an easy target on his back, but no kid ever trained harder at Manchester United, according to Rio Ferdinand.
The Portuguese reshaped body and soul, literally and metaphorically, to turn the boy into a man, and then the man into a penalty-box monster.
He never played puerile media games with his employer to manipulate a pay rise or a transfer. Nor did Messi or Bale.
They just performed. They improved the sides around them. They made potential paymasters come to them.
Bale turned into the Lone Ranger, essentially carrying Tottenham towards some of their greatest European triumphs.
When Liverpool faltered this season, Sterling went AWOL, popping out of his shell only to throw himself in the shop window via a shameless interview.
Instead of rising like a man, he sulked like a child.
His form dipped dramatically after he rejected a new five-year contract worth £100,000 ($208,000)-a-week.
It was a more-than-generous offer considering his age and the fact that he hadn't come close to replicating his influence of the previous season.
That was okay. He's still only 20 and developing his role in one of the game's most mercurial positions, so Liverpool's contract terms were an accurate reflection of his progress.
But, instead of proving the Anfield bean counters wrong, Sterling proved them all right by churning out a number of peripheral displays when his toiling teammates needed him most.
At the same time last season, Luis Suarez lived up to his huge salary by dragging Liverpool within touching distance of the title.
Suarez stepped up. Just as Ronaldo and Bale did in Real Madrid's Champions League campaign last season; just as Messi did against Bayern Munich this time around.
Strip away their myths and men of substance remain. Sterling hasn't grasped the distinction between the two.
His reported unhappiness over a lack of Champions League football is laughable, considering his own culpable role in Liverpool's struggles.
As a furious Jamie Carragher pointed out, the winger's impact in the Champions League and the FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa was negligible.
The Wembley occasion simply passed him by, he drifted through the semi-final like a plastic bag caught in the breeze.
Shortly after that foolish interview, Sterling went into hibernation, presumably mothballed by green-eyed advisers keen to protect their prized asset.
Liverpool picked up eight points from the last 24 to miss all their pre-season targets, thanks in no small part to Sterling being dazzled by the dollar signs.
But, if he thinks he can play hardball with the moneyball men, he is sadly mistaken. Liverpool owner John W Henry will not be bullied.
Henry's Fenway Sports Group also owns the Boston Red Sox. Compared to the sharks swimming in the sea of baseball agents, Sterling's advisers are anchovies, little appetisers to snack on.
Henry knows that Sterling isn't Suarez. He's replaceable.
More importantly, he's implacable. He's never satisfied.
Like an attentive father, Brendan Rodgers has catered to his every whim, nurturing him, forgiving him and even giving him a mid-season break in Jamaica.
Sterling has been too tired to play for his club and too exhausted to play for his country.
At 34, John Terry managed to feature in just about every fixture for Chelsea.
Sterling is out of excuses and fast running out of potential suitors.
He couldn't displace current personnel at Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Chelsea.
His only realistic shot is Manchester City, whose track record with promising English talent is far from exemplary.
In truth, he's just the latest misguided youngster swallowed whole by a Premier League machine still suffering from delusions of grandeur.
Like the EPL itself, he's just not good enough on the international stage.
But that's Sterling's problem.
He shouldn't be Liverpool's problem for much longer.
BY THE NUMBERS
Liverpool's win ratio with Raheem Sterling in the team this season is 40.4 per cent. However, the Reds won all five of their games when Sterling was absent.
Agent: It's all blown out of proportion
Raheem Sterling's agent claims reports the Liverpool forward is set to the tell the club he wants to leave this summer have "been blown somewhat out of proportion".
Aidy Ward, the 20-year-old's long-time representative, said that he and the player are scheduled to meet Reds officials this week and insists they will move forward from there.
"The story has been blown somewhat out of proportion," he said in a statement to talkSPORT.
"Raheem and his representatives have a meeting scheduled with Liverpool later this week, and we will take proceedings from there."
Sterling has two years left on his current deal but rejected a reported £100,000 ($208,000)-a-week offer earlier this year and negotiations were put on hold until the end of the season.
The reports have generally been viewed as another public relations disaster by Sterling's camp, after a pre-arranged television interview last month in which the youngster claimed he was not a "money-grabber".
A dip in performance levels this season has not helped him, while the row over whether he was too tired to play in a Euro 2016 qualifier last October also left a sour taste with England fans.
And regular links with the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal have led to accusations his head has been turned.
However, former Liverpool winger John Barnes cautioned Sterling over making a hasty decision which could impact his long-term future.
"Raheem has not achieved anything, he has not won anything," Barnes told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"Raheem has great potential but Liverpool gave him an opportunity and he should stay for a couple of years.
"The time is not right for him to move but, if he wants to move, the club should sell him. The manager cannot keep an unhappy player.
"This idea of leaving one huge club to join another huge club does not sit well with me, but it is a modern era where the power is in the players' hands.
"Does anyone believe that if he goes to Manchester City, he will be the first name on the team sheet or are they just signing him because they need English players?
"If he goes to Manchester City, to give himself a chance of winning the league, he will not become a regular for them. We have seen it with players in the past like Scott Sinclair."
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refused to be drawn on the latest transfer speculation surrounding Sterling - and insisted it would be "stupid" to allow anything to disrupt their end to the season.
The Emirates Stadium has been touted as a possible destination for Sterling were he to move.
However, ahead of tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) game against Sunderland, Wenger was keen to play down any agenda which could distract them from securing third place in the Premier League and the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 30.
"At the moment, we are not in a transfer mode. We want to finish our season well," said Wenger. "The transfer period comes after the FA Cup final."
Pressed on whether Arsenal would bid for Sterling once the season was over, Wenger replied: "In the summer, we will bid for people, (but) at the moment, we are not in transfer mode at all.
"You absolutely want me to say something that I don't want to say.
"I don't like to lie. If I say that I will and I don't do it, then I have lied.
"They have the right to decide what they want but, at the end of the day, in our jobs you need the agreement of the player as well." - PA Sport.
Carragher condemns Raheem
He's holding the club to ransom
"I can't get out of my head a young kid and his agent trying to take the club on. You keep your mouth shut and get on with playing football. How will he be thought of?"
He went AWOL in big games
"Liverpool had a chance of trophy this year, in the (FA Cup) semi-final against Aston Villa - where was Raheem Sterling? What did Liverpool do in the Champions League this year? Nothing. What did Raheem Sterling do? Nothing."
He needs a new agent
"I played with him and he's a great kid. He's not some flash young kid, he loves his football. I think for his football development, he needs to stay at Liverpool. He doesn't need to move clubs - he needs to change his agent."
Next stop for Sterling?
With the future of Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling still up in the air after contract negotiations hit an impasse, PA Sport looks at where the 20-year-old could end up should he leave Anfield.
City could certainly benefit from having another English player, since they could be losing the out-of-contract James Milner. They can also afford both the fee and the salary Sterling reportedly wants, as well as offering Champions League football and the chance of regular silverware.
The Gunners' style of football would suit Sterling, and a return to his boyhood home city may well appeal, as would playing in the Champions League. However, Sterling's £150,000 ($312,000)-a-week wage demands may not sit well with some of the established players at the Emirates.
Playing for Jose Mourinho guarantees trophies, provided you can handle his demands on flair players. Again, transfer fee and wages would not be a problem and it would offer Sterling a chance to return to his old stomping ground in the capital, having grown up in the Wembley area.
The Bundesliga champions were linked with Sterling in December and they have since lost star wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery to injuries, which led to their Champions League semi-final exit.
Pep Guardiola's reputation, particularly the way he coached Lionel Messi at Barcelona, would be a huge draw.
Real have made a habit of buying not only the best players but also those who have become fashionable.
Sterling's performances this season do not qualify him in either category but Real do gamble on potential, such as their signing of 16-year-old Martin Odegaard in January. - PA Sport.