Raheem Sterling, LiverpoolÔÇÖs teenage winger, has been warned to readjust to a period out of the limelight as his manager, Brendan Rodgers, fears fatigue is taking its toll.
Rodgers said he had told Sterling, who turned 18 in December, not to expect the same number of opportunities in the climax to the season as he is concerned the player is suffering from the effects of being overplayed in the early months.
Sterling was elevated to first-team duties with Liverpool at the start of the campaign, his rapid rise earning him a first England cap as well as a new deal on Merseyside.
His league appearances have been limited since then. With Coutinho also signed, Sterling was back in the under-21 development squad on Monday night, alongside Jonjo Shelvey.
ÔÇ£I was talking to him [Sterling] the other day about this, and if he didnÔÇÖt kick another ball this season heÔÇÖs had a good season,ÔÇØ said Rodgers.
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs just a very physically demanding league and what youÔÇÖre seeing now is more tiredness of the legs when before he could go up to people and take them on. That zip has gone and thatÔÇÖs down to fatigue. It was to be expected.
“This is a kid weÔÇÖre talking about so we have to take a wee step back.
ÔÇ£What heÔÇÖs done since he stepped on to the pitch against Leverkusen in a friendly to Manchester City, as a 17-year-old, I dare you to look around Europe and tell me a 17-year-old who has made an impact in one of the big leagues. There arenÔÇÖt many.
ÔÇ£It is so mentally and physically draining this league, it hurts experienced professionals and this boy has just stepped up from the academy and played football and earned a contract off that. We have to nurture that and at times heÔÇÖs got to have that mentality to keep learning.
ÔÇ£He will have experienced that before but not in the limelight nationally that it is now. HeÔÇÖs made such an impact that everyone is looking at him now of course. But the job is to nurture him.
“HeÔÇÖs started his career at first team level way before many get the opportunity. HeÔÇÖs still got lots of improvement to make in his game.
ÔÇ£Over the years we will look at his plan and development and act accordingly.ÔÇØ