When Raheem Sterling made his Liverpool debut as a fresh-faced 17-year-old almost two years ago, Reds supporters were hugely excited about the potential of the talented winger. A string of impressive performances even earned the teenager an England cap against Sweden and it seemed as though Sterling’s career would go from strength to strength from that point on.
The former Queens Park Rangers youth star continued his incredible rise by signing a new Liverpool contract in December 2012, but his career came to something of a standstill soon after. A lack of competitive action saw Sterling’s development stall, to the extent that those same supporters who had been so entertained by the winger just a year before now feared for his Liverpool future. The midfielder was not progressing and all that early promise had fizzled out.
But, all Sterling had needed was a run of games. He started his first Premier League game of the season on October 5 against Crystal Palace, but was made to wait until December 1 before he next featured from the off against Hull City. Sterling has since made eight consecutive starts in the top-flight, scoring goals in three of them. He was also given an opportunity to make a start in the FA Cup clash against Oldham, in which he produced two assists and outshone the more experienced on-loan Chelsea winger Victor Moses.
Inspiring performances over the course of a busy December have boosted fans’ confidence in Sterling once again and he finally looks to be fulfilling his potential. The youngster has looked calm and collected in front of goal, creative from the flanks and has built up a good on-field relationship with his fellow first-team regulars, including Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez.
Recent reports have suggested that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers would be looking to send Sterling out on loan to further his development, but given his excellent form and Rodgers’ repeated claim of possessing a squad thin on quality and bodies it would be a real shock if such a move happened. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how Rodgers accommodates Sterling once prolific striker Daniel Sturridge returns from injury.
A return to the bench for a lengthy period could see Sterling’s career stutter once again, but trying to fit the likes of Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge in the same team will be difficult for Rodgers. Perhaps the most sensible way to progress would be for Rodgers to rotate his starters, rather than giving Sterling just a few minutes from the bench in every game. It will be interesting to see how the Reds’ boss handles his squad selection when all his big attacking stars are fully fit and available.
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