It’s still far from clear if Raheem Sterling will depart this summer. Though Real Madrid are aware of his promise, those with connections to the club do not believe they will move for him. Similarly, reports out of Germany suggest Bayern Munich are not interested. With Liverpool loathe to sell domestically, it may mean that Sterling will remain despite the wishes of the player and agent Aidy Ward.
However, if Sterling does leave, Spanish newspaper AS believe that Brendan Rodgers has set his sights on a fringe Real Madrid player as his replacement: 24-year-old Denis Cheryshev. The Russian born winger spent last season with Villarreal on loan, scoring seven goals and 11 assists in 40 appearances across all competitions. He has previously spend time with Sevilla, and before that was a regular contributor for Real Madrid B.
Despite representing Russia, Cheryshev has spent most of his life in Spain, joining the Sporting de Gijon academy when he was just six years old while his father Dmitri played for the senior side. He later followed his father to Burgos CF before joining Real Madrid’s academy in 2002. Both Sevilla and Villarreal have had options to make his loan move permanent, but both decided to pass and return the winger to Madrid.
That Sevilla passed on him is hardly a surprise given he only made five appearances for them in 2013-14, but with Villarreal he appears to have finally developed into the effective wide player many expected him to become when he joined Madrid’s academy. One good year on loan at 24, though, does not make him worth £14M, and if that—or around €19M—is the option Villarreal had on him, it’s easy to see why they too passed.
It’s also rather hard to imagine Liverpool would pay that much for Cheryshev, particularly when he only has one season remaining on his current deal. With the likes of Yevhen Konoplyanka available on a free, there are far cheaper—and more proven, experienced, and quite simply better—options available on the market than a fringe Madrid winger who has had one good season on loan.
For the right price, Cheryshev might make for an interesting target. For anything like the fee rumoured in AS, and as an outright replacement for Raheem Sterling, it’s a very hard rumour to take seriously.