Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling was dropped to the bench for Sunday's clash at Stoke after his contract dispute with the Premier League club turned ugly this week.
Sterling rejected a contract offer worth a reported £100,000-a-week earlier this season and the row escalated this week when his agent Aidy Ward was quoted as saying the England international wouldn't be signing a new deal on any terms.
Ward's outburst, which also included comments that showed his disdain for the club's point of view, infuriated Liverpool, who immediately called off a planned meeting to reopen talks with the 20-year-old.
Liverpool fans responded to the controversy by jeering Sterling at the club's player of the year awards ceremony this week.
Sterling's existing contract does not expire until 2017 and Reds boss Brendan Rodgers says he expects the youngster to see out the remaining two years of his deal.
But Rodgers opted to take Sterling out of the firing line for Liverpool's final game of a disappointing season.
"Part of the reason Raheem Sterling is on the bench is because of everything that has been going on," Rodgers said.
"I think it is a game to take him out. There has been a huge weight on him. We have other players who are focused on the game."
It is the first time in 18 matches, since a Europa League tie against Besiktas in February, that Sterling had been missing from Liverpool's starting line-up.