Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said Wednesday the demands of a tough English Premier League season were starting to get on top of teenage sensation Raheem Sterling.
The 18-year-old winger has shone since being handed a full league debut by Rodgers in August and he won his first England cap against Sweden in November.
However, Sterling has not completed a full 90 minutes since December and Rodgers is convinced that fatigue has played a key factor in checking the progress of the rising star.
"This is a kid we're talking about, so we have to take a wee step back," Rodgers insisted.
"It is so mentally and physically draining, this league. It hurts experienced professionals and this boy has stepped up from the academy, played football and earned a contract off that," the former Swansea boss added.
"We have to nurture that and, at times, he has to have the mentality to keep learning. If he didn't kick another ball this season, he's had a good one.
"But what you are 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 it's down to fatigue. Was that to be expected? Yes it was."
Liverpool are currently eighth in the table and 10 points off a place in next season's Champions League.