At 20 a big talent

Raheem Sterling, who Liverpool are trying to tie down to a new long-term contract, is reportedly showing interest to clubs such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

Liverpool’s chances of playing in next season’s Champions League seem to be diminishing by the week, but Raheem Sterling will not be short of offers to remain in Europe’s elite club competition if the need arises.

Sterling has struggled to produce his best form during what has been a disappointing campaign for the Reds so far.

There is little doubt that he remains one of the most exciting players in English football though, and keeping him at Anfield could prove vital if Liverpool’s title push last season is not to be a one-off.

The 20-year-old, who the club are trying to tie down to a new long-term contract, is reportedly showing interest to clubs such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

After striker Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona in the summer, the club can ill-afford to lose their next potential world-class star if poor results prevent them returning to the Champions League on a regular basis.

Manager Brendan Rodgers is not overly concerned at least. He says: “Hopefully it is not going to be the case. We are trying to build something here.

“We were on a path for a couple of years and we have had to come off that path since the summer having lost some players and have had to regroup.

“He is a real talisman for this team. He has been a great example of the progress that a lot of the players have made here. He has gone from a youth-team player to one of the top young players in European football.

“The club, I am sure, will work very hard (on his contract) and Raheem is happy here, he loves being a Liverpool player.

“I am sure between them and the representatives we can get a deal done which will see him go on to continue to develop what is an exciting career.

“I will never be surprised teams will be linked with Raheem as he is such a big talent at 20, a wonderful young player, but I am quite relaxed about it.”

Many of Liverpool’s summer signings have flopped so far and with Suarez having departed, it is perhaps understandable that Sterling has not yet hit the heights that he managed last season.

He found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons recently when he missed Liverpool’s best chances in the 3-0 defeat against their bitter rivals Manchester United. Rodgers insists the youngster is not being affected by the debate over his future though and was satisfied with his display at Old Trafford.

“I think Raheem has been brilliant, absolutely outstanding,” added Rodgers. “The kid’s played in a front role for me at the weekend — a role he has played before as a youngster — but I don’t think it is affecting him one bit.

“Okay he could have got a goal or so but he puts defenders on the backfoot, he is intelligent in his game, has running ability, and is getting himself into some wonderful positions.

“The kid has been a real catalyst for us in terms of our attacking threat so I don’t think there is anything which has affected him.

“He leaves his representatives to work with the club to hopefully organise the deal for him and he has no real influence in that.

“All I ask him to do is concentrate on playing football and the performances will come and he has shown consistently he has been a real threat.”

Sterling also found himself in the spotlight off the pitch recently after England boss Roy Hodgson revealed the player had told him he was tired ahead of the final training session in the build-up to the Euro 2016 qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn.

That led to accusations he had said he did not want to play, but Sterling insists nothing could be further from the truth — and says he has learned from the experience.

“It was pretty difficult,” he said. “I tried to not really watch TV much or listen to things. If I saw a conversation about me on TV, I would just turn over. It was the first time I’d had to deal with anything like that. It was different but I felt I dealt with it really well. I didn’t read too much into it.

“The main thing I’ve learned is to just shut off. I was always on my phone and Instagram — things would pop up and you could not go past it without having a look. But now I’ve learned to block it all out and not read what is said.

“I just love playing football for club or country. If anything I said got taken the wrong way, I’m sorry about that, but I am always happy to play football.”

© PA Sport