Steven Gerrard has urged Raheem Sterling to sign a new deal at Liverpool if he wants to become a ‘top, top player.’
Sterling has reportedly rejected the offer of a new £70,000 a week contract at Anfield, and reports suggest European giants the likes of Real Madrid, Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich are keen on signing him.
But the Liverpool captain has urged Sterling to stay where he is, insisting Anfield is the best place for his development.
“I hope he signs a new contract at the club because I think this club is perfect for him, certainly for the next few years,” said Gerrard after Sterling scored twice in Liverpool’s 3-1 Capital One Cup win over Bournemouth.
“He’s going to play most weeks, the fans love him here. He can progress here and become a top, top player here so I hope the people around him give him the right advice because he should stay here.”
Sterling ended a 17 match goal drought in midweek by scoring twice to set up a Capital One Cup semi final with Chelsea – days after the 20-year-old revealed a new haircut.
“It’s the haircut, wasn’t it?” smiled Gerrard. “It was the reason why he scored! No one recognised him when he came in, he knocked about 10 years off with that haircut! He’s great to watch, great to play with, he’s got that pace. When you look up he’s always giving you an option and that’s what I’ve thrived on throughout my career at Liverpool with the likes of Fernando Torres, Michael Owen.
“There’s nothing better as a midfielder when you look up and see pace running in behind. I saw it on numerous occasions [against Bournemouth] and hopefully it will continue because it stretches teams and creates chances.”
Sterling has been deployed as a central striker in his past two matches, and Gerrard believes the versatility shown by the youngster is crucial to his chances of becoming a world class player.
“You’ve got to be able to have that [versatility] in your locker if you want to be top drawer,” added Gerrard. “Raheem’s got potential to be top drawer for sure. He took a lot of stick after the weekend [the loss to Manchester United] but I thought his all-round performance was magnificent, the only thing that was missing was a finish and that came [against Bournemouth].
“The exciting thing for all of us is that he’s English and going to be a top, top player. I think he can play anywhere along the front, he’s that intelligent. He’s got to keep learning, he’s got to keep wanting it.”
Sterling’s return to form is well-timed, following a difficult spell for Liverpool, which saw an early exit from the Champions League and a heavy defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United.
“It’s been very hard,” acknowledged the captain. “For me, I’ve experienced it a few times during my career at Liverpool when it gets tough under certain managers and from the outside people are trying to kill you. It’s normal. We’re at a big club, we’ve got to take that responsibility. We can’t have players hiding and feeling sorry for ourselves, we need men out there and I thought we all turned up [against Bournemouth]. That’s why the result came.
“I tell them individually, I tell them in the dressing room. But if you’re sitting in that dressing room and you don’t know that the performance levels haven’t been good enough of late, you’re at the wrong place.”
The skipper acknowledged Wednesday’s result was particularly important, given the fact manager Brendan Rodgers finds himself under pressure.
“Yes, I’d say so,’’ added Gerrard. “But it comes with the territory. There was a stage when a couple of my performances were under par and I got a bit of stick. It’s normal.
“I know when I don’t play well. Every individual does here. It’s been tough to perform because we haven’t played well as a team and so there have been tough days of late. But if we keep fighting, keep performing, keep giving everything you’ve got, I’m sure the good days are not too far away.
“I’ve got to accept it being captain of the club and he’s got to accept it being the manager of Liverpool. If results don’t go well, questions are going to get asked, criticism is going to fly, you take it on the chin and try to improve things. That’s the only way.
“This is where you find out what kind of players you’ve got in the dressing room. It’s time to roll your sleeves up and fight for the club and try to put it right as soon as possible and that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s satisfying and gives you a bit of breathing space but everyone knows if we perform back to how we have done of late against Arsenal we’ll get beat.”