BRENDAN RODGERS will have a message for Raheem Sterling when the teenager pens his new five-year contract today – the hard work starts now.
The Reds boss is on a mission to ensure the 18-year-old winger doesn’t rest on his laurels after seeing his stunning progress this season rewarded with a lucrative long-term deal.
Rodgers is delighted that an agreement has been reached and says it is reward for Sterling’s huge impact since he was handed his full debut against Manchester City back in August.
However, the Northern Irishman insists the young England international still has plenty to learn as he looks to realise his full potential.
"I always congratulate players when they sign a new contract and then I warn them," said Rodgers.
"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. They have got that contract for what they have done in the past.
"Raheem 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.
"There is a lot of development and a lot of nurturing to go yet, but he has been rightly rewarded and it is fantastic for the football club."
Despite speculation that clubs such as Manchester City and Arsenal were trying to lure Sterling away from Anfield, Rodgers was always confident the youngster would commit himself to the club.
As well as ensuring the terms were right financially, the boss says it was also about putting a "football plan" in place for him.
"It’s not so much in a contract, it’s an agreement really," he added.
"It’s not even incentives, it’s sheer development as a player. He will have all of that in his contract if he continues to play a certain number of games, but when I look at players and speak to them I always go through a number of things.
"There’s the commitment, not the motivation, what is your commitment to help us achieve here?
"Then once I think they’re committed and they’re in it for the right reasons it’s the plan, the organisation. He needs to know at 18, when I’m talking about him improving, what does he need to improve on?
"How can we improve his goalscoring, his creativity, his efficiency in the game? He’s come in at 17 and it’s been great how he’s performing but his job is simple: to score goals, create goals, make interceptions and tackles.
"He knows his job so how can we make him do his job better? It’s that plan in those terms and then it’s about making sure he knows it’s his responsibility."
Sterling, who has scored once in 28 appearances for the Reds, missed training earlier this week due to illness, but has now recovered and is fit to face Fulham at Anfield tomorrow.
He has made 16 successive league starts but Rodgers is considering giving him a break after admitting he has looked jaded in recent weeks.
"If you go into a lot of clubs as a young player it is a nice little journey, but if you go in at one of the biggest clubs in the world it is magnified one million per cent," said Rodgers.
"For young Raheem we need to help manage those expectations. It is our job to educate him and there is still so much for him to learn," added Rodgers.
"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."