Arguably the biggest source of January-transfer-window-related discourse among Liverpool supporters has been whether or not the Reds will bring on a winger to assist with their wide game, and if so, who could fit the bill.
But for all the talk about the Adam Johnsons and Eden Hazards of the world, the answer to Liverpool's winger question may already exist in a red shirt. Meet Raheem Sterling.
The 16-year-old native of Kingston, Jamaica who got his start at Queens Park Rangers' youth academy before coming to Liverpool in February of 2010, has caught the Kop by storm and developed into one of the most exciting players at the academy right now, and he's expected to do even more great things once he starts breaking into the first team. Praised for his speed and pacing, his ability to make good use of both flanks, both feet and technical skills, Sterling has impressed at the youth level and there's plenty more where that came from.
Last season, Sterling dominated on the U18 squad, giving a cracking performance in the young Reds' 6-0 thumping of rivals Manchester United, where he made some strong goal attempts and linked up well along the flank with Australian left-back Brad Smith. But the head-turning highlight for Sterling came in February of this year, where he scored a jaw-dropping five goals in Liverpool's 9-0 routing of Southend United in the FA Youth Cup.
Sterling has also showed promise on the international circuit. Most recently, he gave a string of impressive performances in the 2011 U17 World Cup, scoring in the Three Lions' 2-0 victory over Rwanda and in a later victory over Argentina.
Manager Kenny Dalglish has noticed the rising star, too, as Sterling was given his first call-up for the senior squad following his performance against Southend. He was a substitute on the roster for the Reds' away Europa League leg against Sparta Prague and had he played, he would have become the youngest player in the club's history. The move was certainly a vote of confidence from Dalglish to bring such a young player along for a cup match.
Dalglish has been cautious with Sterling in the hopes that the hype will not eclipse the wünderkind. As he was quoted in the Daily Mail regarding the decision to bring Sterling along for the trip to Prague:
"Don't forget he is an U16 player and that's what makes the performance even more impressive but we must protect this player and it's too soon to think this player is a star."
He's got a long way to go, to be sure, but his path to what will hopefully be a regular spot on the senior squad will certainly be an exciting one.
Check out the video for footage of some seriously Sterling performances. (And don't worry, his playing is far, far better than that pun.)
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