Raheem Sterling: Attack is not always the best form of defence

Raheem Sterling is a fine footballer for Liverpool and England.

An exciting forward, his style has caught the eye and despite only being 20, he's already made almost 100 appearances for the club.

There comes a point for many footballers where the desire to win trophies or to move on outgrows their commitment to their present employers.

Liverpool, remember, almost won the Premier League title last season and competed in this season's Champions League. 

The sale of Luis Suarez, an injury to Daniel Sturridge and the indifferent form of Mario Balotelli have made the Reds less of a force this season.

All clubs go through such spells but as the season has evolved, rumours have turned into speculation regarding Sterling's rejection of a new, lucrative contract extension that would keep him at the club for more than the two years he currently has left.

Sterling proceeded to do an interview with the BBC  without the permission of his club, in which he expressed his frustration with the way he is being portrayed as a money-grabbing football diva.

He said: "I keep hearing I've rejected all sorts of contracts. Me, the club and my reps have spoken about it and put talks on hold until end of season, so it's frustrating to hear the contract situation keep going on and on. I just wanted to get my point across on the whole thing."

It appears as if his agent, Aidy Ward, is advising him on public relations and has no qualms about defying the protocol of his current employers.

And the stakes were raised when Ward spoke out himself to the Evening Standard, declaring that the interests of his player were more important than the sensitivities of Liverpool or any of the former players, who have expressed their dismay at this contract wrangle and how it has been handled.

While Ward's comments may show him as an agent fighting for the best deal and on-field success, they have certainly tarnished Sterling's reputation.

And they go against what the player himself said about focusing on his football and dealing with his contract and future at the end of the season.

When Ward says that he doesn't care whether people suggest his client is being badly advised, he misses the point that it could hamper their collective earning power to attract sponsors who rarely want to be associated with individuals who appear to have limited respect for their clubs.

This is sadly turning into a public relations disaster for Sterling and it could have been avoided with a little more understanding of communications and diplomacy.

Ward's comments are at odds with those of Sterling, who should now make a brief statement through official Liverpool club channels confirming that he will sit down for discussions at the end of the season.

He should also advise his agent not to make any more statements which, ultimately, damage the player and his reputation in a sports media world where heroes and villains are easily cast.

Performing on the pitch and the trophies that go with it are ultimately what shape the career of any footballer.

But if a new contract or a lucrative transfer come at the cost of negative coverage and with it the absence of confidence of potential sponsorship partners, it can have a far greater impact on the reputation and therefore the commercial interests of a player.

And if an agent is there to enhance the earnings of his clients, damaging their reputation is likely to have the opposite effect.