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Raheem Sterling "Not Ready" to Leave Liverpool

Much has been asked of Raheem Sterling during his two-plus seasons as a first-team regular at Liverpool, and while he's mostly delivered, one of the greatest forwards in the club's history thinks he still has plenty left to accomplish before leaving.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The future of Raheem Sterling will not be determined until this coming summer at the earliest, with the possibility that negotiations could be drawn out until the end of his current contract in 2017. The likelihood of that happening is impossibly slim, and most would agree that the months ahead of the start of next season will be crucial in determining where one of England's most promising youngsters will be spending his early twenties.

If it were up to John Barnes--which most everything should be--there would be no doubt that Sterling would spend the next few seasons at Liverpool. Barnes has been vocal about his preference for the 20-year-old forward to see out his current deal plus a season or two under Brendan Rodgers, and reasserted his belief that there is nowhere better for Sterling to continue his impressive development:

"Raheem Sterling should absolutely sign the contract and stay at Liverpool. I would advise any young player who has just been in the game for a year or so to stay and learn his trade. Show a level of consistently over a four or five year period before you make a big move. You will then be judged as a £50m player.

"We've seen it with Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell at Manchester City. Where are they now? Sterling is not ready for a move to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester City. He needs another two or three years at Liverpool. Then, if he decides he wants to move on, fine. He has to be very careful though."

For the record, Scott Sinclair has spent time on loan at West Brom and, currently, Aston Villa after moving to Manchester City from Swansea City in 2012, while Jack Rodwell, who also headed to the Etihad that year in hopes of securing a regular spot at a bigger club, left for Sunderland on a permanent deal last summer. Between the pair, they made 29 first-team appearances and had an impact that can best be described as negligible, with most forgetting they were actual people that existed.

Barnes' point is, as always, well taken, even though most of the hand-wringing has a distinctly European flavor to it. There are clearly areas of development left for Raheem Sterling, ones that will only be polished with regular first-team football at a high level. The Premier League is no longer the highest level, but it's certainly one that will see him progress into the type of talent most expect, and regular time is no guarantee--at least at clubs above Liverpool domestically or abroad--at any destination other than the Red half of Merseyside.

Also, Harry Redknapp is in full agreement, so it's either all but a done deal or destined to end in tears.

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