Brendan Rodgers warns Liverpool they face battle to keep top talent
Raheem Sterling backed by manager to react strongly at Emirates after BBC interview
Brendan Rodgers would be loath to lose Raheem Sterling’s as he seeks to reverse Liverpool’s fortunes. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
The Liverpool manager confirmed Sterling will retain his place against Arsène Wenger’s side despite the 20-year-old admitting on Wednesday he was flattered to be linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium.
Sterling, who may return to a more advanced role for a game with major implications for Liverpool’s Champions League prospects, has refused to commit his future to Liverpool through a £100,000-a-week contract or during an interview with the BBC this week.
Rodgers will have no hesitation in selecting the England forward against a team who may bid for him this summer.
“Raheem will play,” said the Liverpool manager, who expects Daniel Sturridge to have recovered from the hip injury that ruled him out of England duty last week. “And I expect him to react very strongly. He is a strong character. He’s a young boy, still learning on and off the field, but I don’t think there was anything derogatory to Liverpool from him [in the interview].
“I know he loves being here, loves the club and I expect him to perform at a high level. If it was a different player I maybe would have something to think about. But this kid has been phenomenal since he has come in and I expect him to go there and perform at a high level for the club.”
Rodgers has stated Sterling will not be sold this summer, with the player under contract until 2017 and Liverpool’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, prepared to take the same hardline stance that prevented Luis Suárez leaving for Arsenal in 2013.
However, having lost Suárez to Barcelona last summer and seen a young player with potential question Liverpool’s pay offer plus their ability to win trophies, the manager is fearful of a talent drain at Anfield.
“The challenges Liverpool face now are far greater than they were 20 years ago. The challenges are huge,” Rodgers said. “It does not affect the status of the club – it is still an incredibly huge club around the world – but the modern player is different. It is a different feeling, you want to be successful, but for a young player there is no greater place to develop.
“We want that youthfulness – we do not just want it for another team to come and take it. My focus is to keep this group together and add to it and compete for trophies. Otherwise you just have to keep rebuilding or restocking your squad.”
Rodgers wants to add established talent this summer, when Steven Gerrard will depart for LA Galaxy, but admits he requires patience from the current crop for FSG’s strategy to come to fruition. The average age of Liverpool’s starting lineup was 24.2 for their last Premier League match, which ended in a damaging 2-1 home defeat by Manchester United .
The Liverpool manager added: “It is the model of the club. Whether I like it or not, it is how the model is set up. I do the best with the players available. Yes, I think the most successful teams will average 28-29 years of age and ours will be below that. You will see that in the United game, where a lack of experience shows. That is why they are here – to learn – and when it is like that, it will go that way sometimes.” Guardian Service