Raheem Sterling Is Showing All the Signs That He Can Be a True Liverpool Great

Scott Burns@@scottb86Featured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2014

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Since early December the performances of Raheem Sterling appear to have improved week after week and the winger is now arguably the most in-form player in the Barclays Premier League.

The form Sterling has shown since scoring a late goal in the 5-1 win over Norwich on December 4 has been nothing short of sensational and has left Reds fans purring.

Defenders of the stature of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Phil Jagielka—three of the most consistent defenders all season—have been run ragged by Liverpool's teenage sensation.

The 19-year-old has matured from the player whom Brendan Rodgers admitted last season suffered from "burn out," according to Tim Rich at The Independent. Sterling is showing the kind of form that if were to continue could lead to legendary status in Merseyside.

Sterling is arguably the most exciting winger that Reds fans have witnessed since the late '80s and the days when John Barnes would twist and turn opponents to within an inch of their lives.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28:  Daniel Sturridge (C) of Liverpool is congratulated by teammates Luis Suarez (2nd L), Raheem Sterling (L) and  after scoring his team's third goal Aly Cissokho during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and
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The one-cap England international has formed a terrific understanding with teammates Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge that has seen them become the most feared attacking trio in the country.

They have been in scintillating form as of late as the Reds have fired themselves right back into the title race with a brand of attacking football not seen at Anfield for many a year.

Central to that has been young Sterling, who already has four more goals than the two he managed throughout the whole of 2012-13 and has also equalled last season's assists tally of three (via ESPN).

Man-of-the-match performances in wins over Everton and Arsenal, in which he was unplayable from start to finish, have been the highlight of the youngster's season so far.


Work Still to Do

What must be emphasised however is that Sterling still has plenty of work to do if he is to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Barnes when his days as a professional are behind him.

It is only a matter of months since this writer named Sterling in a previous article as a player who needed to improve going into 2014 but boy has he done just that.

Although much improved from the early stages of this season, the youngster's decision-making is still often questioned but knowing when to pass and when to go for goal is something that will come with age and experience.

There have been occasions that when in threatening positions, Sterling has perhaps over-thought a decision that in a year's time will come natural. Hard work and dedication to the cause will ensure that this happens.

Learning from the likes of Steven Gerrard will ensure he has the mental toughness to succeed at a club the size of Liverpool and not being afraid to seek out the captain for advice could be crucial.

Many youngsters at top clubs think they have "made it" the minute they force their way into the side, when in fact this is only the beginning of their journey to the top.

The likes of Gerrard and Jamie Carragher before him worked tirelessly to stay at the top and ensure they were the best they could possibly be—a perfect example for Sterling to follow.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Raheem Sterling (L) and Steven Gerrard (C) of Liverpool talk with match referee Howard Webb during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on February 16, 2014 in London, England.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Temperament will also be important and not letting frustration affect performances. Frustration at the failure to get a decision in the recent cup defeat at Arsenal saw Sterling approach referee Howard Webb somewhat aggressively and place a hand on the chest of the official.

No further action was taken but a quiet word in the youngster's ear from skipper Gerrard and manager Rodgers to stamp out this kind of behaviour sooner rather than later will benefit both Sterling and Liverpool to no end.


Important Months Ahead

Sterling's recent form has thrown him right into the mix for a place in England's World Cup squad, said England coach Roy Hodgson to the BBC, a position many would have thought was out of reach just a few months ago.

The winger—whose only cap to date came in a friendly against Sweden in November 2012—would give England a different dimension coming off the bench in Brazil.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Raheem Sterling of England in action during the 2015 UEFA European Under 21 Championships Qualifier Group 1 match between England and Finland at StadiumMK on November 14, 2013 in Milton Keynes, England.  (Photo by Sh
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Pace to burn and the versatility to perform consistently on either flank will help the youngster's case for a spot on the plane come June.

The World Cup however at this precise moment in time should be as far back in Sterling's mind as it possibly can be. His form for Liverpool is what is important and what will inevitably decide his fate.

A successful season for the Reds will do nothing to harm the youngster's chances and at the moment Rodgers' men have to believe that winning the title is a real possibility.

With no cup competitions to distract the side, the focus of Sterling and co. will be solely on the league and the winger's form could well be crucial in deciding where the title ends up.

A big few months from the the winger along with other key players such as Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard could see the Reds—against all odds—clinch their first league title for 24 years.

To be part of that would arguably grant those involved immediate legendary status but Sterling is one of a select few who have the potential to go on to be a true Liverpool great.

There is nothing Reds fans love more than seeing a youngster do well and in Sterling they have a player who can excite the crowd and light up Anfield at the drop of a hat.

Surely in with a shout of being named PFA Young Player of the Year, 2014 could well go down as the year that Sterling well and truly introduces himself on the big stage.

If the last few months are anything to go by then he most certainly will.



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