When the transfer window closed without Liverpool having brought in the big name attacking signing many fans had spent the summer hoping for, Raheem Sterling's importance to the club's chances this season skyrocketed—and so too did expectations the youngster could take the next step in his career.
With the arrival of Victor Moses on loan and Luis Suarez' imminent return, Sterling won' have to play as often as at the start of last season, but he's still likely to see at least 30 appearances in the league and cups when everything's said and done. And Brendan Rodgers believes he can deliver.
"Raheem has looked very bright and very sharp for us," said the manager. "He took his goal against Notts County last week exceptionally well. He worked very hard to overcome the thigh injury which forced him to miss the closing months of last season and enjoyed a good pre-season.
"This is a young player who for six months last season was one of the top performers in the Premier League, not just for Liverpool. He has shown he's capable of being here and playing at the top level. For us it's just about taking the pressure away from him.
"Now he has to demonstrate that ability on a daily basis and when he gets opportunities in games he needs to consistently perform. If he does that then he will have a really bright future."
Rodgers isn't the only one who thinks highly of the young winger, as Roy Hodgson has included Sterling in the senior England squad set to face Moldova on Friday and Ukraine on Tuesday. With the number of late injuries, it's even possible the 18-year-old could see action.
"Of course Raheem is still very young and there is a nurturing process needed there," added Rodgers, "but I am sure Roy and his staff know that. I don't pick the England team. It's not a problem of mine but they will be fully aware of the implications of taking a young player and then him not playing for a number of games."
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