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Does this 19-year-old wonderkind deserve a new contract at Anfield?

Does Raheem Sterling deserve a new contract with Liverpool? The 19-year-old has been the subject of interest from European champions Real Madrid and rumours have been flying around that Brendan Rodgers is set to multiply the wingers current £35,000 a week wage by four times to fend off interest.

Sterling was signed for just £600,000 by the Reds in 2010 from Queens Park Rangers but never really featured until the 2012/13 season, making 24 appearances and scoring 2 goals.

Last season, however, Sterling contributed plenty to Liverpool’s title challenge, appearing 33 times, making 5 assists and picking up 9 goals including a brace in the 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal and the opener in the 3-2 victory against Manchester City.

A lot of last years pre-season talk was about how Brendan Rodgers would get the best out of his two strikers, Suarez and Sturridge, while maintaining balance in midfield and defence. The former QPR man’s natural position is out wide, but playing a 4-3-3 to suit Raheem would force either Sturridge or Suarez out on to the other wing.

Despite the goals and assists statistics, what Sterling offered was versatility. Naturally a winger, Brendan Rodgers often deployed the Jamaican born starlet at the spear head of a diamond midfield, the former Swansea boss decided a diamond shape was the best way to fully utilise strike partnership Suarez and Sturridge.

Sterling flourished in his new number 10 role, offering pace, a direct approach and several clever runs in between Suarez and Sturridge to form, at times, a front three. The maturity the 19 year old has shown phenomenal, regularly finding pockets of space between the opposition’s midfield and defence and, more often than not, causing havoc.

Despite falling short of the Premier league title, Raheem Sterling’s good season with Liverpool earned him a place in England’s 23 man squad for the 2014 world cup.

The 19 year old surprisingly started England’s opening group game against Italy and played in his now favoured number 10 role, forcing Wayne Rooney, who’s best role is also behind the striker, out wide.

Sterling performed superbly and was without question the best player on the pitch. The Italian back three couldn’t cope with his pace and dribbling ability as he got in behind them all too easily, too often. He showed no fear, plenty of composure and many thought he had scored with a long range strike just grazing the side netting.

It was a performance that left England fans purring despite the 2-1 defeat. Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann claimed Sterling “has the world at his feet”.
The England international is a player that can make things happen wherever he is deployed on the pitch, but many, as do I, believe he can shine brightest in the number 10 role, given his ability to find pockets of space.

There is no doubt in my mind that Sterling deserves a new contract for last season’s efforts. £140,000 a week for a 19 year old heading into just his second season as a Liverpool regular is a lot of money. But finding a player of that quality, age and as versatile will cost a lot more. I believe tying him down should be one of Brendan Rodgers top priorities in the coming weeks.

Just how good can Sterling be?

No-one could argue that Sterling has matured as a footballer over the last year. He has honed his skills and displayed a real sense of maturity way beyond his years in his willingness to adapt to a new role for the teams benefit.

It’s an old cliché but the saying stands true when I say the sky is the limit for this young man. He is only going to improve, not necessarily with age, but with top level experience. Liverpool’s return to the champions league will benefit Sterling no end as he plays against some of the best defenders across Europe.

Sterling has already gotten his team off to a winning start with a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win over Southampton and another title race could well be on the cards.

The experience of big pressure games will improve Sterling mentally, with decision making and the ability to cope with a hostile crowd just as important as technical ability.

The Red’s are without Suarez for this season’s ambitions and Rodgers will be looking for someone to turn to who can deliver big performances. Don’t be surprised if 19 year old Raheem Sterling turns out to be the man for the job.

Can Raheem Sterling become one of the Premier League’s best? Is he worthy of a bumper new contract? Join the discussion in the comment section below or on Twitter @TBRFootball.

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