Brendan Rodgers has said Liverpool must control the expectation levels that will rise in line with Raheem Sterling's salary when the teenager commits his long-term future to the club. The 18-year-old is due to sign a five-year contract on Friday following protracted negotiations over the first senior deal of his professional career. Rodgers insists the delay was "not just for financial reasons" and that the incentivised contract, plus the "football plan for a young player", had to be right to maintain the teenager's rapid development this season into a full England international.
Rodgers has spoken recently of resting Sterling, who has shown signs of fatigue having been ever-present in the Premier League since making his full debut against Manchester City in August. And he admits the Jamaican-born player must handle the expectation levels that follow the brightest young talents in the Premier League once the contract is signed.
"People will expect more from him but if you play for a big club that is always going to be the case," Rodgers said. "For young Raheem we need to help manage those expectations. If you go into a lot of clubs as a young player it is a nice little journey. If you go in at one of the biggest clubs in the world it is magnified one million per cent. It is our job to nurture him and educate him and there is still so much for him to learn. He hasn't long left school. It is not only football education he needs but life education as well. We will support him in that and make sure the expectancy is at the correct level."
Rodgers denied Sterling's deal will elevate him among the highest paid players at Liverpool. "He hasn't joined those ranks, don't worry about that," the manager added. "He has been rewarded as a young player who, at 17 years of age, has come in and performed very well. He will never be elevated above his position here at the club, but he has been rightly rewarded and it is fantastic for the football club."
Sterling's new contract will come complete with a warning from the Liverpool manager. Rodgers explained: "I always congratulate players when they sign a new contract and then I warn them. I tell them they need to decide after this contract whether there is going to be another contract at one of the biggest clubs in the world or whether it will be at a different level. They can't rely on this contract and I make sure they know that."
Blackpool, meanwhile, have insisted Liverpool are yet to agree a fee to re-sign Thomas Ince when the transfer window reopens in January. The Championship club rate the 20-year-old winger at £6m, although Liverpool are entitled to a 35% sell-on fee under the terms of his move to Bloomfield Road last August. Further talks took place between the clubs this week but, according to Blackpool manager Michael Appleton, the fee remains a stumbling block.
"There's been a conversation with Karl Oyston and Liverpool regarding an offer," said Appleton. "As far as I'm aware the offer is way below what we'd expect for someone of Tom's talent."