Raheem Sterling Likened to Lionel Messi by Liverpool Boss Brendan Rodgers

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2014

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR GUINNESS INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP - Forward Raheem Sterling (31) of Liverpool FC shoots and scores a second half goal while being defended by midfielder Emyr Huws (52) of Manchester City during the Guinness International Champions Cup on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at the Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York. (Adam Hunger/AP Images for Guinness International Champions Cup)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has once again talked up the talents of Raheem Sterling, claiming the player has "a touch like [Lionel] Messi."

James Pearce of The Liverpool Echo reported on the Anfield boss' latest words about the teenage England international, noting his comparisons of Sterling to one of the greatest players of all time. 

His identity is he has to score goals and create goals. That’s what the job is. He scored 10 goals last year and this kid is only going to get better. When you look at the finish against Manchester City in New York, how many times have we seen Messi produce a touch like that? Taking it through bodies when it’s so tight in the box.

Raheem’s feet were so soft and his finish was great, as was the one which was disallowed for offside just after. The great thing with watching him now is that he gets you off your seat. When he gets the ball you think ‘something could happen here’.

Sterling's stock has rocketed in recent months with the young attacker showing some sparkling form as Liverpool ended their Premier League season in second place.

The midfielder featured 33 times for the Reds in the league last year, achieving double figures in his goal stats, scoring 11 times, per Squawka.

But despite this impressive return, any comparisons to Messi must surely be taken with a pinch of salt.

Sports writer Samuel Luckhurst highlighted the comical fact that Steven Gerrard once compared Joe Cole to Messi, on the back of Rodgers' latest statement:

However, when taken in a less literal way, Rodgers does have some credibility in his comments about Sterling.

Messi was playing at the top level when he was a teenager and Sterling will achieve the same feat during the upcoming campaign in the Champions League with Liverpool.

The player's speed of thought and change of direction are two of his most obvious assets and he shares this with the Argentina captain.

They also both have an explosive instinct that entertains the public and leaves opponents standing in their dust.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 04:  Raheem Sterling #31 of Liverpool in action against Manchester United in the Guinness International Champions Cup 2014 Final at Sun Life Stadium on August 4, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Ima
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

However, Sterling boasts nowhere near the consistency of quality that Messi showed as a young man. He has had a marvellous six months which has seen him improve his performance and become a top name in the Premier League.

But previous to this, he suffered in the first team and it looked like his early promise may have been a smokescreen. He has since proved that this was not the case but the upcoming season will prove a litmus test in a Liverpool shirt.

Sterling will be a marked man in 2014-15 and he will need to diversify to continue his strong influence, especially with Luis Suarez's exit from the team.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  (L-R) Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling of Liverpool react during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Cardiff City at Anfield on December 21, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With Suarez present, Sterling could ghost into attacking areas with the defensive focus being on the Uruguay kingpin.

Now that has evaporated and Sterling will be the target for many defenders' roughhouse tactics. The player himself has commented about this, once again name-dropping Messi into the conversation, per Colin Harvey of the Daily Star:

It's part of the game really, the physical side of it. You are going to get defenders who want to make sure their presence is there and make sure it’s being felt. I think if you are getting kicked on the pitch, it means you are a threat to the opposition, because they want to stop you as early as possible.

In this game, you’ve just got to look at Messi or Ronaldo – they get kicked all the time, I think they are doing something right. So that’s why people try to stop them as early as possible. I'm not saying I’m a Messi or Ronaldo, but it’s the same if you are in an attacking position, defenders will try to kick you.

Sterling will be vital to Rodgers' cause this year and it is no surprise that he is talking him up.

But it will only take a small swing in his form for him to lose focus and he will be out of the side, as Liverpool have an abundance of attacking options in midfield.

It will be interesting to see if Rodgers uses Sterling in the No. 10 position—a role which could see the player become Liverpool's own Messi. Despite Sterling not really being able to be mentioned in the same breath as the Barcelona superstar, he could have a similar impact for his own club and be the talisman that the Anfield club now needs.