Currently on his half-term school holidays, Raheem Sterling looks set to write his name in Liverpool’s history books by featuring in the Reds’ Europa League tie against Sparta Prague tomorrow. 16-year-old Sterling would break the record set by teammate Jack Robinson and become Liverpool’s youngest ever first team player if he’s given a run out by Kenny Dalglish.
A lot of plaudits have gone the way of 16 year old Raheem Sterling this week after his five goals against Southend, and although the comparisons to John Barnes are way too premature, there are certain things about the Liverpool winger’s style of play that have really caught the eye and excited some people who don’t normally get sucked in by the tag of “A Star in the Making.” His performance in the 9-0 win in the FA Youth Cup has got many people chatting about what the future may hold for the player.
Liverpool did exceptionally well to fight off the interest of Manchester United, Man City, Fulham and Arsenal when they signed the player in February last year. In a sizeable £300,000 four year deal, the Reds hoped they had got one of the most exciting prospects in the country, and his display last night would have gone a long way in justifying the investment in him. The deal would have put a lot of pressure on the 15 year old but he is a man who seems to take most things in his stride. According to QPR head of development Steve Gallen, Sterling lives and breathes football:
“He’s not interested in all the stuff around him – whether it’s in the street, the car park or wherever; he just wants to play football all the time”
The former QPR player was born in Jamaica but has played in many of England’s youth teams. He joined Rangers at 10 years old, and at 15 some coaches said that Sterling was at the same level as Wayne Rooney was in his development at the same age, but more widely held comparisons have been made with Theo Walcott. A fast, pacey attacking midfield player who can “pass, shoot, head, score goals, tackle, defend” according to Steve Gallen, Sterling no doubt has tremendous prospects and it certainly shows that the policy of bringing in expensive young talent from other clubs is on the way to working.
It is definitely not the time to get ahead of ourselves though. The fifth round of the FA Youth Cup is the furthest that Southend have ever got in their history and the class of the Reds players shone through last night. The attributes that Sterling possesses though are what impresses many. He has incredible pace, great dribbling ability, he has an eye for a goal and has the ability to use his left as well as his right foot to keep opposition full backs guessing as to whether he will cut inside to shoot or go out wide to put a cross into the box. Such natural ability cannot be coached, and harnessed in the right way, Sterling really has a great chance of making it at the top level. Certainly with the experience of Rodolfo Borrell, the winger has more than a fighting chance.
His second and fourth goals demonstrate his devastating speed and directness. He ghosts past two Southend defenders after cutting in from the left to finish with aplomb for his second while his fourth is similar, taking advantage of a tired defence to go past the opposition as if it they weren’t even there to slot home the team’s seventh of the game.
He is still probably a couple of years away from the first team. At 16, his body is yet to develop fully and his slight build is the only slight concern about him. His speed, step-overs, dribbling ability and shooting accuracy all point to an exciting future though and we will no doubt be hearing a lot more in the years to come. It could even be sooner than some imagine too as he has been given the ’31’ jersey indicating he his in the thoughts of manager Dalglish. Kenny, Damien Comolli, Steve Clarke and Sammy Lee were all at the match on Monday. Perhaps a spot on the bench for the Europa League match tomorrow? You never know, but this 16 year old is really one to watch.
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Read more of David’s articles at the excellent ‘Live4Liverpool’