Ian Rush: Robbie Keane's ill-fated move to Inter is stark warning to Raheem Sterling
Published 04/04/2015 | 02:30
If Raheem Sterling needs any advice about what to do this summer then Robbie Keane is the man to call. The Ireland captain was the same age in 2000 that Sterling is now when Inter Milan offered him a king's ransom to move to Italy.
Coventry or Milan? It seemed a no-brainer. But six months later, he wanted out. Marcello Lippi, the manager who signed him, was gone and the new guy, Marco Tardelli, didn't think Keane was up to it.
Fast forward to today. Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea are three of the clubs supposedly interested in Raheem.
Now bear in mind that City apparently are considering sacking the manager who won two trophies with them last year. In that context, is it worth risking a move there?
And is Real Madrid worth the gamble? They too are rumoured to be growing tired of Carlo Ancelotti. A European Cup, Copa del Rey and FIFA World Club Cup treble clearly isn't enough to keep the locals happy.
As for Chelsea, well Jose Mourinho is flavour of the month now but remember when Ancelotti held that dubious title at Stamford Bridge. Or Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo? For the record, Claudio Ranieri, Mourinho, Avram Grant, Guus Hiddink, Felipe Scolari, Ancelotti, Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez have all come and gone since Roman Abramovich became the club's owner.
My point is this. Sterling could go to Madrid, Manchester or London and think life will be a bed of roses.
But he'll encounter a sharp shock. He has to ask himself, what happens if the manager who signs him gets the bullet, which frequently happens at those clubs. Will the new guy like him?
Perhaps he will. Or perhaps there will be two or three Raheem Sterlings on the payroll. Perhaps Sterling will suffer a similar fate that befell Micah Richards, Adam Johnson and Jack Rodwell when they fell under the spell of Manchester City managers who preferred more experienced players.
Or perhaps he will endure what Gareth Bale is going through at Real Madrid. Burdened by a hefty transfer fee, Bale is jeered and booed by his own fans.
And that is in spite of the fact he has played well, has scored key goals in important finals and is part of a side who could possibly still win a league and Champions League double.
That is what comes with the territory of being an employee of Real Madrid, Chelsea or City. You won't be forgiven a bad performance. People won't excuse you and say: "He's only 20. He's still learning his trade."
They won't judge Sterling by his age but his price tag. Leave this summer and Raheem will carry the tag of a £50 million player. He will not be the kid who came through the ranks.
So what's the rush? Why leave?
Why walk away from a club that has a huge history, especially when the offer on the table from Liverpool is so generous?
Why go now, at 20, when the manager who gave you your big break knows how to get the best out of you? Why risk your development?
If you want to go, wait for a few years. Don't panic and think the trophies will stay away from your cabinet. You are 20 years old. Show patience.
Speak to Ryan Giggs. I used to. When we played together for Wales, Ryan as a young man starting off his career, me as an elder statesman, he used to fill me in on the advice Alex Ferguson gave him.
Clubs would, periodically, come in with bids. Juventus. Inter Milan. Yet he stayed. "I trust the gaffer," Giggs told me. "That matters."
That type of thing still matters. I know Brendan Rodgers and know Sterling. They're right for each other.
And I think Raheem will stay. He's not a big-time Charlie. I've known him since he was 17. I saw him knuckle down and realise he had to work hard to make it in the game.
And he did. Look at him now. He's developed into a superb player but there is more to come. At Liverpool, he can be as good as he wants to be.
People will read this and say, 'well you would say that, wouldn't you? You're a Liverpool man'.
Yet the advice I have for Raheem now is the same as the opinion I gave to Ryan Giggs 20 years ago when he was also a man in demand.
Stay for now and mature at your own pace.