LONDON — England manager Roy Hodgson expressed sympathy for Raheem Sterling over the Liverpool forward’s increasingly unseemly contract stand-off with his club.
Sterling has rejected a new deal worth £100 000 (R1,8 million) a week and Liverpool are reported to have cancelled a meeting with his representatives after his agent Aidy Ward was quoted as saying that Sterling was determined to leave.
Sterling (20) has come in for criticism from Liverpool greats including Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness, while he was booed during the club’s end-of-season awards ceremony, but Hodgson believes allowances should be made for the player’s tender age.
“I worry for all these young players, to be honest,” Hodgson told reporters at Wembley Stadium.
“They become stars very quickly. Their period of potential stardom doesn’t last for very long these days. Sometimes, a few games in the Premier League and you are a star.
“We should never forget we’re dealing with very young people. I believe from what I know of Raheem that he’s strong enough to compartmentalise his life — from this side to what happens on the field of play, which is what interests me.”
Hodgson added: “I trust him implicitly. I think he’s a very important person and a very important player for England going forward.
“I’ll be very disappointed if he doesn’t continue to kick on and get even better as he gets older.
“And I really do sympathise with these players who, if you like, have got to live their lives under scrutiny — sometimes of their making, sometimes of other people’s making — and they’ve got to deal with it.”
Sterling was included in the squad that Hodgson named for next month’s friendly against Ireland and 2016 European Championship qualifier against Slovenia, along with uncapped trio of Charlie Austin, Jamie Vardy and Tom Heaton.
One name absent from the 24-man list was Aston Villa’s 19-year-old playmaker Jack Grealish, who was born in the English city of Birmingham but has represented Ireland at youth level.
Hodgson confirmed that the Football Association has informed Grealish of England’s interest in him, but said it is up to the player to decide which country he wants to represent at senior level.
“He’s fully aware that if he wants to play for England, we’d be very happy to take him,” Hodgson said.
“He’s a very talented footballer. In my opinion, at this young age, he’s showing the qualities that will make him a very good future international player.
“But I don’t want to put pressure on him to play for us if he wants to play for Ireland.”
Explaining his decision not to select Grealish, Hodgson said it would have been “inflammatory” to do so given that England’s next opponents are Ireland.