You can't blame Raheem Sterling for phoning in sick a second day in a row. Blame him for the first one, by all means, but every experienced skiver knows that there's no sense in only taking one at a time. That would just make people suspicious. After all, if you're ill enough to miss one day, you're not going to recover quickly enough to come back the next day, are you? It's just common sense. Besides, the Ashes are on.
But before Sterling pulls the duvet over his head and settles back into his slumber, he should spend a little time reflecting on the long-term repercussions of his standoff. Football doesn't forget, and reputations last a lifetime. When Nadir Ciftci's agent, Pierre van Hooijdonk, appeared in the Scottish media this week, the first reaction of any football supporter over the age of 30 was to recall how van Hooijdonk had gone on strike at Nottingham Forest in 1998, a move that contributed to the former European Champions' relegation from the top flight. Van Hooijdonk missed "only" 11 league games and was back on the first team by November, but it's still the first thing that anyone in England remembers about him.
It should be restated that there is nothing wrong with Sterling's wish to leave Anfield. His manager said that he was the best young player in Europe. He won an award for being the best young player in Europe. The best young players in Europe do not play Europa League football.
A little loyalty might be nice, of course, but let's not be naive. Sterling, 20, is not some homegrown talent who owes his living to the club. Liverpool used their clout to lure him away from a smaller team (QPR) in 2010 and they have no right to complain when the same trick is used against them in 2015. But the problem is in the way the story has unfolded.
"I am very disappointed to see this happen," says Neil Atkinson, from the Liverpool podcast The Anfield Wrap. "It's not entirely one-sided. You can make a strong argument that Sterling was undermined last season. At his age, he shouldn't be Liverpool's best or second-best player. He should be going into training knowing there are others. And if he is the best or second-best player, he should be paid accordingly.
"He emphatically hasn't been. But the sadness is that these sensible arguments have drifted away into what looks from the outside to be a series of unpleasant interventions. Nothing is new in football. Players have been finding ways to force their own moves for years. Sterling is just doing it in a time when we have a 24-hour news cycle. However, he and those who represent him and his interests need to keep in mind that Sterling's reputation is coming off second-best when he may well have decent cause to leave Liverpool in the first place."
Sterling wants more money and more medals. He wants to walk out to the Champions League theme tune. He wants to take his career as far as he can, and he has the right to do so. But there are ways to do this without turning your reputation toxic. A simple transfer request would have done the job, allied to a carefully constructed statement that highlighted his desire to win trophies. Liverpool's supporters would not have been happy but they might at least have understood his motivation, especially after such a poor season.
But a written transfer request is not something to be undertaken lightly. Most players have "loyalty payments" in their contract that they will receive in the event that they are sold. For a player of Sterling's calibre, those payments are likely to be substantial. If he hands in a transfer request, he'll lose them instantly. Sterling can say as often as he likes that this isn't about money, but no one will believe him until the paperwork goes in.
You might ask why Sterling should care what people believe, and it's a fair question. After all, we know how this is going to end. Unless Liverpool take the unprecedented step of dumping him into the development squad, fining him every time he fails to show up and waiting patiently for his relatively modest £35,000 a week contract to expire in 2017, they will relent and sell him to Manchester City. And a club without serious external resources like Liverpool is highly unlikely to write off an asset worth between £40-50 million. Sterling will get what he wants eventually.
But over at Manchester City, you wonder if doubts are setting in. Liverpool want £50 million, but is Sterling really worth that much? He shone during Liverpool's title near-miss in 2014 but he didn't play particularly well last season. He's certainly a player of some potential, but he hasn't fulfilled it yet.
When you pay £50 million, you expect some serious quality. That's almost as much as World Cup star James Rodriguez cost Real Madrid. That's more than Kevin de Bruyne is likely to cost from Wolfsburg and he was superb last season. Is Sterling really the best way to invest a sum of that size? Granted, he has a passport that suits City's UEFA requirements, but there are cheaper English players who could provide backup while ticking boxes.
More than that, you wonder if anyone at City is looking at the way Sterling has conducted himself and wondered what they're getting into here. Will he fall out with Manuel Pellegrini if doesn't play in his preferred role? Will he brief against the club if he doesn't get what he wants? Never mind briefing against the club -- will he run off and speak out against them in an unauthorised interview? And in the event that Sterling does fulfill his potential at City, how will he behave if Barcelona or Real Madrid start sniffing around?
Sterling is a promising young player whose desire to maximise his talents is entirely justified. But his methods are getting out of hand. Even Luis Suarez didn't pull out of a preseason tour because he wanted to leave Liverpool. And if you're losing a popularity contest with Suarez, you really have to question your PR strategy.