Raheem Sterling in fresh smoking controversy with team-mate Jordan Ibe
Raheem Sterling has become embroiled in a fresh controversy after images of the Liverpool forward holding a shisha pipe alongside Reds team-mate and another rising star Jordon Ibe emerged yesterday.
Sterling has already earned the ire of club boss Brendan Rodgers after footage was released on Monday of the 20-year-old appearing to inhale the legal high nitrous oxide and then pass out.
Rodgers made it clear after Monday's 2-0 win over Newcastle that he expects better from his players and the Northern Irishman added he would talk to Sterling about the reports concerning his off-field behaviour.
The latest pictures, published in the Daily Mail, show both Sterling and 19-year-old winger Ibe holding shisha pipes and, according to the national newspaper, were taken at a London bar earlier this season.
It is the second time in a matter of days that Sterling has been photographed with a shisha pipe, with a Sunday newspaper also publishing pictures of him allegedly smoking from the instrument.
Liverpool did not wish to comment on the issue when contacted by Press Association Sport last night.
Before these latest images emerged, Bobby Barnes, deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association and European president of the international players' union FIFPro, urged understanding towards Sterling.
Barnes told Press Association Sport: ''Nobody would condone the use of these types of substances whether legal or otherwise as footballers are seen as role models. It does send a message to young people that if it's good enough for footballers then it's good enough for them and that is not desirable.
''But you have to bear in mind that we ask an awful lot of young players growing up in the public eye. Many of us look back at things we have done in our teens and early 20s and wish we hadn't done them.
''He's made a mistake and people are human. I am sure this will be a minor blip on his path to a fantastic career.
''Players have to be aware that there is camera on every corner - they are very much in the spotlight.
''He's a young man, growing up in public eye and he's made a mistake. Let's not be too hard on the boy. He is under a lot of pressure and people think because he has a lot of talent he's also supposed to have diplomacy and wisdom.
''In the main he's doing a very good job, he's at a good club and has a good manager and I'm sure Brendan will put his arm around him and at the same time make him aware of his responsibilities.''
The matter adds to the controversy and negativity currently surrounding Sterling amid a wrangle over a new contract.
Sterling risked the wrath of supporters a fortnight ago by admitting he had rejected a £100,000-per-week deal in an interview that was not sanctioned by the club.