Raheem Sterling and his continued rise has been no surprise to me from the very early days of Brendan Rodgers' tenure. Yet even when one is convinced of the talents of any young player, it is interesting to see where those talents take him as they begin to blossom. Even after the sterling service young Raheem provided from December onwards, he was seen as an early candidate for rotation and at 19, it wasn't an entirely unfair suggestion. His performances and productivity have ensured that he remains both a starter and key player.
For others though, Raheem Sterling is more than just Raheem Sterling. His growing prominence in England's national set-up and dangerous work in the final third under manager Roy Hodgson has forced a rethink. Being a regular contender for best player on the pitch on the international scene as well as the club scene is impressive and the new England captain has been thinking about Sterling's potential. After all, this is the player who this writer thought was a key factor in assessing potential attacking recruits in the summer transfer window.
Before the World Cup I showed him videos of Marc Overmars because he reminded me of him. He has the potential to be as good as Overmars. Raheem is a fantastic and quite an unusual player. He can play right across the front line, out wide. Although he's a small lad, he's really strong. The potential he's shown is incredible. He'll be a massive player for us over the next 10 to 15 years and, unfortunately, for Liverpool.
This quote hasn't been selected to question Rooney's observations because the Manchester United captain is right in that Raheem Sterling is "quite an unusual player" in terms of his flexibility and directness, especially when considering other English wide players and attacking midfielders over the past decade. We know all about the destruction he can inflict in the final third but being effective across multiple positions is a joy for any manager. His tactical discipline, teamwork, and effective pressing makes him a reliable option. The next stage for a player who is rising as fast as Sterling is being compared with other players.
Marc Overmars was such a quick and direct wide player for Ajax, Arsenal, and Barcelona. His time in England captured the imagination of many fans as he forced defenders to run back in fear while continuing to offer the Dutchman space to shoot from central positions. Can Raheem Sterling develop into one of the defining wide players of his time in the English Premier League?
Perhaps it is not Overmars who should be the template for a young attacking player fighting for his very life in modern football. According to Jamie Redknapp, Raheem Sterling is "England's David Silva" because he can work effectively "between the lines", albeit differently, to um...David Silva. They are two different players but Redknapp's excitement about someone who is "our best player" was unfettered. And so it goes...
Raheem Sterling is England's David Silva. He doesn't manipulate the ball like the Spaniard, but he can play between the lines and he has something Silva doesn't have: destructive pace. He is such a weapon for England and Liverpool. He is now our best player - aged 19 - and defenders are frightened of him. The pass he delivered for the goal was with his left foot and I can't see a weakness in his game. Credit to Brendan Rodgers for developing him and he will get better. England have to play him through the middle. That's where the best players play. Get him on the ball and facing up to defenders. He will win free-kicks and penalties and he will score goals.
The former Liverpool midfielder was cultured in his approach to the game but is it true that the best attacking players in football play centrally? It is understandable to think that the 19-year-old Liverpool star (too early?) should be central in formulating England's attacking plans but is it necessary to make such a tenuous comparison with a player in his prime who operates quite differently as a number ten?
It's hard not to veer into hyperbole with Raheem Sterling, considering that excellent performances are flowing with unerring consistency. Yet it is still early in the season and much can change. The player known as "Razza" has been provided with the development he's needed and the necessary time for reflection combined with recuperation on the bench over the past two seasons. With every winning contribution he makes for England, eulogies and column inches dedicated to him will become plumper. At the start of the first international break of the season, Jordan Henderson rightly defended his Liverpool teammate from some unfair criticism as any dressing room leader would. It is hoped that with an increased focus on the teenager's performances, good judgement and considered opinion will reign.