Sterling's not the finished product and not worth $100m
Sterling is a raw gem that can be polished but there's no guarantee he's the perfect cut
(Raheem Sterling 9, Joe Allen 70)
Raheem Sterling divides opinions.
He borders on brilliance and yet flirts with frustration.
He is capable of something stupendous, but is also capable of a howler.
Liverpool beat Newcastle 2-0 at Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time), with the 20-year-old playing a significant role in how things went.
His performance summarises what he is all about.
Sterling might have paved the way to victory, but he also nearly cost the Reds one.
His contributions - a superb opening goal and two torrid misses - showed just why Liverpool will be lucky to pocket £50 million ($100m) for him if he does indeed leave at the end of the season.
That's how much money the club want to make them part for the England international, should they fail to convince him to lower his wage demands.
The price tag apparently isn't putting off admirers, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City rumoured to be interested.
Then again, the football world lives in a gargantuan bubble.
His ninth-minute goal was a gem that lifted Anfield to its feet.
He cut inside and beat two Newcastle defenders, before scooping the ball from under his feet into the back of the net. That was Sterling's confetti moment.
But Newcastle unexpectedly got back into the game. For 15 minutes either side of the half-time break, the Magpies dominated and threatened. They were getting too close for comfort.
Liverpool needed another goal. The chance came in the 57th minute for, who else, but Sterling.
It was hard to decide which looked worse - Ryan Taylor's hash of a clearance which saw the ball fall to Sterling, or the latter shooting wide when unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box.
The Kop groaned. On the touchline, manager Brendan Rodgers withdrew a fist which was poised for a celebratory punch, then turned away from the camera and pursed his lips.
There was time for another clanger.
Five minutes from time, skipper Jordan Henderson delivered a precise cross to his feet. But Sterling, eight metres from goal and with only the goalkeeper to beat, lifted the ball high and wide.
In the end, it was Joe Allen who sealed Liverpool's victory with his 70th-minute strike.
Yesterday morning, Sterling once again reminded the world of his vast potential and, at the same time, his profligacy.
He's a raw gem, but not yet the finished article. Time can polish the diamond but it doesn't guarantee the perfect cut.
He could be the next Thierry Henry, or he could just as easily turn out to be the next Shaun Wright-Phillips.
His seven Premiership goals put him behind Tottenham Hotspur's Nacer Chadli and Stoke City's Mame Diouf on the scorers' chart.
His seven assists rank him lower than even his own captain Henderson and West Ham's Stewart Downing.
Is he worth $100m? How can he, when Mesut Oezil, Juan Mata, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Mario Goetze each cost their respective clubs considerably less?
Liverpool need not sweat over Sterling's decision at the end of the season.
If any club can cough up that amount of money, they should grab it with both hands.
18: Joe Allen becomes the 18th different scorer for Liverpool this season, equalling the club record for most scorers in a campaign.
Sterling warned over 'laughing gas'
- INTERNET SCREENGRAB
Premier League and England star Raheem Sterling has been warned about his off-the-field conduct, after apparently being pictured inhaling laughing gas.
The 20-year-old, who scored a wonder goal in Liverpool's 2-0 home victory over Newcastle United yesterday morning (Singapore time), is seen in footage posted on The Sun's website apparently taking nitrous oxide - a legal high.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers praised his young attacker - who opened the scoring - for being "super-professional", but said he would speak to Sterling about his behaviour off the pitch.
Rodgers said: "For me, it is something that when you are a professional sportsperson at the top level of the game, I don't think it is something you should be doing. It is as simple as that.
"But I will speak to him about it, to see what he says on it. As you can imagine, I have seen this only today.
"We want players here who are super-professional and focused on their football. I know he is. He very much is focused on his football and improving as a player.
"As I have said before, young players make mistakes. As long as they learn from them, that is what is important."
The matter adds to the controversy currently surrounding Sterling amid a wrangle over a new contract.
He risked the wrath of supporters a fortnight ago by admitting he had rejected a £100,000 ($200,000)-per-week deal in an interview that was not sanctioned by the club recently.
Another newspaper also published pictures of him allegedly smoking a shisha pipe over the weekend.
Rodgers said any repercussions following the latest matter would be dealt with internally. He added that he did not feel the matter was a distraction.
He said: "You see the way he plays. He is a kid who is very strong-willed and strong-minded.
"He should have had a hat-trick, his performance was outstanding.
"I will speak to Raheem. Until then, it is something we will deal with internally."
Rodgers' sentiments were echoed by Sterling's former Liverpool teammate, now TV pundit, Jamie Carrager.
Carragher told Sky Sports: "It's just important he learns from it because Raheem Sterling, for how good a footballer he is, needs to be on the back pages, not on the front pages and that's a problem for him these last few months.
"But he's a young player, he made a few mistakes and hopefully, in years to come, he learns from them."
Sterling was not the only player to catch the eye, as Liverpool reignited their Champions League hopes with a dominant display.
Philippe Coutinho, playing centre forward in the absence of the injured Daniel Sturridge, also excelled as the Reds created numerous opportunities in the opening half-hour.
Newcastle weathered that storm and did rally before the break, with Ayoze Perez having a strong penalty appeal turned down.
Liverpool regrouped and secured victory with a second goal from Joe Allen after 70 minutes.
The win lifted them within four points of fourth-placed Manchester City.
Rodgers said: "The players and myself are very motivated to do the best we can, but we are looking for other teams to slip up and we have to continue winning."
Newcastle's defeat was their fifth in succession and means they still have work to do to ensure they do not get pulled into a relegation fight.
Their night went from bad to worse as captain Moussa Sissoko was sent off for a late challenge on Lucas Leiva that earned a second yellow card, although it might have merited even harsher sanction.
Manager John Carver said: "The sending-off, it could have been a straight red, I will be honest. I won't defend anyone if it is indefensible."
Asked if Sissoko could be fined, Carver said: "I am sure there will be some kind of disciplinary procedure." - PA Sport.
"He’s a young man growing up in the public eye and every step he makes is going to be caught on camera, on video. The lesson for Raheem is he’s going to have to be even more careful and even more sensible now."
- Professional Footballers’ Association deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes, on Raheems Sterling’s ‘laughing gas’ controversy