Rodgers mindful not to let Sterling get spent before time

‘I think it is critical that, in 10 years’ time, he is approaching his peak as opposed to having played his best games’

Brendan Rodgers has said he will safeguard Raheem Sterling's long-term career and avoid a repeat of Michael Owen's misfortunes despite the growing importance of the teenager for Liverpool and England.

Sterling, who is 19, has already made 80 senior appearances for Liverpool and has started to emerge as a key player for Roy Hodgson’s England team, winning his ninth cap against Switzerland on Monday. The forward’s form for club and country may limit opportunities to rest him but Rodgers, mindful of Liverpool’s experiences with Owen when he was in a similarly elevated position, insists he is looking to protect Sterling’s interests for the next decade.

The Liverpool manager said: “Some managers would take a stance of ‘I don’t care’ because they might only be in a job for three, four or five years and so make sure he plays as much as he can for you. But I have welfare for the boy. That is vital for me.

“I think it is critical that, in 10 years’ time, he is approaching his peak as opposed to having played his best games. If he gets to 28 and has got too many miles on the clock and is burned out, that is something we will have to look at. He is a big talent. He broke into the team at 17. As a club, we have managed him quite well but it is hard when you are such a good player and you keep performing. Both your club and your country need you.”


Owen has conceded that he “played too much, too soon,” when he came on to the scene with Liverpool and England and said: “Had I been managed differently I would have been at my best for longer.”

Rodgers admits Owen and Robbie Fowler’s problems with injury later in their careers will influence his handling of Sterling. He said: “Michael had different types of injuries and you can look at Robbie too. You think of how good he was when he was a kid and then injuries caught up with him. I am certainly aware of it. That is why I am planning five teams ahead, that you are protecting them when you can. But they need to work and you want that form to be consistent. He is a talented boy who will be managed as we feel is best. He is happy with that, comfortable with that, and he is growing into a very important player.”

Rodgers' summer rebuilding will be tested against Aston Villa today with Mario Balotelli expected to lead the line in the absence of the injured Daniel Sturridge, while Emre Can, Martin Skrtel, Jon Flanagan and possibly Joe Allen will also miss out.

Sent home

Balotelli was sent home from training on Thursday with illness but is expected to be fit, while summer signings

Adam Lallana


Lazar Markovic

are also pressing for starts.

Villa sit third in the fledgling Premier League table after an unbeaten start and manager Paul Lambert takes his side to Liverpool full of confidence. “This is a really healthy place at the moment,” he said. “The season’s started well and we’ll go to Anfield with confidence.

“Liverpool lost Luis Suarez, yes, but they strengthened over the summer and brought in a lot of good players to be prepared for competing in various competitions. So we know it won’t be easy.” Guardian Service