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Suarez, Sturridge Focus Allows Sterling to Develop for Liverpool and World Cup

England's Raheem Sterling waits for the national anthems to begin during the international friendly soccer match between England and Denmark at Wembley stadium in London Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant
Matt LadsonChief Writer IIINovember 17, 2016

You wouldn't know it from browsing the English media at the moment, but a teenager is currently performing so impressively that he should be one of the first names on the England team sheet at this summer's World Cup.

The 19-year-old is a key figure in the team currently top of the Premier League. He has four assists and six goals and has performed impressively on the left, the right and at centre for his exciting, attacking team.

Given the usual hyperbole surrounding English attackers, the lack of coverage Liverpool's Raheem Sterling is receiving is baffling.

 

Form

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Raheem Sterling of Liverpool is challenged by Kevin Nolan of West Ham during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on April 6, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Sterling's form has been sensational of late. But the continued exploits of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard have ensured that little coverage has been afforded to the youngster.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has used Sterling on the left and the right of his front three, where the player has looked equally threatening on either side. Rodgers also has shown huge confidence in Sterling's ability by using him more centrally when adopting a midfield diamond.

No player has made more key passes than Raheem Sterling today, with 3.

LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) April 6, 2014

This was the case at Old Trafford in the 3-0 demolition of Manchester United last month and was again crucial in the 2-1 win at West Ham on Sunday. As B/R's Karl Matchett correctly recognised in his report:

Not a winger, not a wide forward; Rodgers stated he wanted to develop Sterling as an all-round footballer, and the evidence of the second half is that this is a work in progress which has already taken enormous strides.

Whether used a touchline-hugging option, a forward to break infield and run behind the defence or, as in the second half at Upton Park, an attacking midfielder to break into space from deeper, Sterling is showing the sort of intelligence and vision—not to mention technique—which makes him a real match-winner for Liverpool.

Sterling certainly is an all-around footballer; not only are his attacking attributes vastly improved—he's now capable of providing the final ball that was often lacking in his first full season—but his tactical awareness and defensive contributions have been equally impressive.

Time and again, we've seen the 5'7" Englishman belie his stature to impressively hold off much bigger players with great effect.

Raheem Sterling has NO RIGHT to be so tough for one so small!!! He's unbelievably strong. #TheREALOx

— showmethemoney1892 (@smtmLFC) April 6, 2014

Praise

There has been praise for Sterling, most notably from his peers and fellow professionals. "He has been class," explained Glen Johnson, per David Maddock of the Mirror. "At the moment, he's probably one of the first names on the teamsheet."

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  (L-R) Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerard and Brendan Rogers of Liverpool celebrate their team's 2-1 victory during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on April 6, 2014 in London
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Theo Walcott, the man Sterling looks set to replace in Roy Hodgson's squad, told Paul Collins of the Daily Mail, "'He [Sterling] has assists, he tracks back and works really hard for the team."

Back in February, after Liverpool destroyed Arsenal 5-1, Rodgers said, per Metro, "Raheem was incredible. He has just turned 19 and I don’t think there is a better winger in England at this moment in time."

He's correct in that assessment. There isn't a better winger in England right now.

 

England

Using Squawka's comparison tool, Sterling is the No. 2 teenager in the Premier League this season, behind Everton's Ross Barkley and ahead of Southampton's Luke Shaw.

Sang Tan

Given the hype around Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj, Sterling and Barkley are performing at vastly higher levels.

Sterling, Barkley and Shaw should be certainties in Hodgson's squad for Brazil, taking players on form and in order to build for the future, just as Germany and Spain have done.

Sterling started England's last friendly and should be starting against Italy on June 14th too. While it's odd that his form has garnered such little attention, he will be happy the spotlight isn't putting any pressure on him. Instead, he can flourish with the assistance of Suarez and Sturridge.

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