Raheem Sterling and All the Signs That His Permanent Position Could Be Central

Scott Burns@@scottb86Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

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Raheem Sterling broke into the Liverpool side almost two years ago as an out-and-out winger with pace to burn and someone who defenders simply could not handle.

After three months of dazzling displays for Brendan Rodgers' side, the then 17-year-old Sterling was rewarded with his first international cap during England's November 2012 defeat to Sweden.

Although the former QPR youngster did okay, the call-up came arguably a shade too soon for a player who was still finding his feet in the Premier League.

Sterling's form dipped after his international bow, and during the second half of the 2012/13 season, he was a shadow of the player who had shone during its opening months.

Slow Start to 2013/14 Season

The Reds youngster would begin the 2013/14 campaign as a regular among the Liverpool substitutes, but a goal during the 5-1 drubbing of Norwich at Anfield in the early weeks of December proved to be the catalyst for a memorable season.

Sterling never looked back.

He immediately became an integral part of Rodgers' side as the Reds came within a whisker of ending their long wait for league title No. 19.

Featuring on both wings, Sterling week after week struck fear into some of the Premier League's finest defenders who could simply not cope with his electrifying pace.

It was, however, arguably in an advanced central position that Sterling really found his niche.

Point of the Diamond

Rodgers surprised many when, during the last few months of the season, he chose to deploy Sterling at the point of a diamond-shaped formation in midfield when it appeared the youngster possessed all the attributes of the most natural of wingers.

It proved to be a master stroke. Sterling took to the position like he had been playing there for years.

Sterling with the SAS
Sterling with the SASLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It gave him the freedom to roam free in behind Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and the prolific duo would benefit as much as anyone from Sterling's switch of position.

The tricky youngster wouldweek in, week outfind pockets of space in between the opposition's midfield and defence and, more often than not, would cause havoc.

Important goals became a regular occurrence as the season progressed. Sterling opened the scoring during the Reds' 3-2 victory over eventual champions Manchester City with a piece of skill that left Anfield breathless.

Playing at the tip of the diamond in behind Suarez and Sturridge, Sterling was unplayable and City's defence simply could not handle him.

Given the freedom to roam and interchange with Philippe Coutinho, the England man was a menace to Vincent Kompany and Co. from the first minute to the 90th.

One week later away at Norwich and again playing in a more advanced central role, Sterling opened the scoring with a sublime long-range strike before adding his second and Liverpool's third in the second half.

As was the case with Manchester City one week earlier, Norwich couldn't get near him. Sterling was becoming Liverpool's key player as the season neared its end.

Despite the Reds falling short in their title challenge, Sterling would end the season with a respectable nine goals and five assists (via ESPN).

World Cup Squad

It hardly came as a surprise when the pacy youngster was named in Roy Hodgson's 23-man England squad to compete at this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

It was a call-up that was fully deserved and one that came as a reward for a season of hard work coupled with majestic individual brilliance.

In action during England's opening group game
In action during England's opening group gameElsa/Getty Images

What may have come as a shock to many was that Sterling would start England's opening group game against Italytaking Wayne Rooney's usual role in behind Sturridgeand was, without question, the best player on the pitch.

The 19-year-old showed no nerves, no fear, was a threat from the off and came within inches of opening the scoring with a sweetly struck long-range effort that at first glimpse appeared to hit the back of the net.

Sterling's casual jog back into position, however, confirmed that it had brushed the side netting.

It was a performance that left fans and pundits alike purring and former Liverpool midfielder and World Cup finalist Dietmar Hamann claiming that the youngster "has the world at his feet" (via Liverpoolfc.tv).

There have been demands from the so-called "experts" for Rooney to return to his more favoured No. 10 position meaning Sterling would likely find himself on the right of midfield.

It is, however, testament to the young man's confidence that, as reported by Sky Sports, Sterling has admitted he will play anywhere that Hodgson should ask him to.

Sterling is a player who can make something happen wherever he should play, but it is this writer's opinion that, in the long run, the No. 10 role is where he can shine most.

As dangerous as he is from a wide position, the youngster's ability to find space in between the oppositions defence and midfield is an ability that not many can claim to blessed with.

Luis Garcia is probably the last Reds player to shine in the role behind the strikers, but Sterling has the ability to eclipse him.

Steve Gallen, Sterling's former youth development manager at QPR, has revealed in The Telegraph how Sterling as a youngster would take his teammates' breath away in training and claimed the England international has all the potential to be a "world beater."

Without putting too much pressure on the youngsterwho is heading into only his second season as a regular at Liverpool and his first tournament at international levelthere is just something about Sterling that has got Reds and England fans hoping.

Could the 19-year-old with only five caps to his name be to England in 2012 what Paul Gascoigne was in 1990 and what Michael Owen was in 1998?

What do you readers think? Does Sterling contribute more as a winger or through the middle and in which position do you see him ending up? As always, leave your comments below.


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