If Liverpool do not successfully negotiate a new contract with Raheem Sterling they’ll be taking one massive step backwards in the club’s development.
The young forward has been a shining light in a Liverpool team that has struggled in an attacking sense in the Premier League this season. Players such as Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert have failed to deliver the goals to compensate for Luis Suarez’s departure in the summer.
It is in this particular position that Raheem Sterling has shown exactly why Liverpool need to keep hold of the teenager. He has played a centre forward’s role in recent matches, becoming Liverpool’s out-and-out striker. It is this positional flexibility that makes Sterling a very useful player for Brendan Rodgers and his sheer talent makes him one of the most exciting young prospects in European football.
Fans will be desperate to see the 20-year-old put pen to paper on a new deal as they won’t want to lose another star this summer. Sterling’s contract expires in 2017 but Rodgers has suggested that the England international is close to agreeing a new deal, as reported in the Daily Mail.
Sterling has received no shortage of interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs since he exploded onto the scene a couple of seasons ago. Although interest from good teams is always positive for a player, it would be the wrong decision if Sterling chose to leave Liverpool at the end of the season.
For example, if the player moved to a side like Real Madrid, the likelihood of Sterling playing regular first team football is immediately reduced due to the fact that Real boast some of the finest attacking players in world football. It would also spell bad news for England, as Sterling needs to be playing regularly if he is to develop into a better player. If he stays at Liverpool, there is no doubt that the England midfielder will be at the forefront of the club’s plans to develop.
As well as Sterling’s personal interests, Liverpool will also want to secure his services due to his sheer talent. They let Luis Suarez depart the club in the summer and wasted the money on players that simply haven’t replaced the Uruguayan. The last thing they would want is a repetition of this with Sterling departing in the summer window. If they decide to let Sterling depart, it is sending out the completely wrong message to fans of the club and would display a lack of ambition.
Although many Liverpool fans will be worried about the prospect of losing yet another quality player, it appears as if Sterling will commit to the club. The former Queens Park Rangers youth player will feel that he still needs to develop into a better player and he has the best chance of doing that at Liverpool.
Rodgers has shown excellent man management regarding Sterling this season, acknowledging the fact that the player needed a rest in what was a packed winter schedule for the club. If the manager continues to make measured decisions like this, Liverpool and England will get the best out of one of their most encouraging young stars.
The club shouldn’t underestimate the partnership Sterling forms with returning striker Daniel Sturridge. Although Suarez was obviously an excellent option in attack last season, Sturridge and Sterling would often combine well to unlock defences. Sturridge’s return will also mean that Sterling can thrive in his preferred position, a supportive attacking role rather than the lone striker.
He has been Liverpool’s most impressive attacking midfielder in statistical terms. Compared to teammates Adam Lallana, Phillipe Coutinho and Lazar Markovic; Sterling has more assists and key passes in the Premier League this season than the three of those combined. With Sturridge returning, Sterling will find that his creative ability will be used to a greater effect due to the understanding between the two players.
The appeal to move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs will always be something that can turn the head of a young footballer. However, Sterling is currently plying his trade at a club that has the potential to become part of Europe’s elite. Although signing another player as good as Suarez is easier said than done, Liverpool showed last season that they are not miles away from competing with the very best once again.
Sterling is a big piece in Liverpool’s puzzle of potential development, so the club need to negotiate a deal as soon as possible rather than facing the real possibility of mulling over another one that got away.