• Premier League

Rodgers: Sterling has 'big part' to play for Liverpool

ESPN staff
July 23, 2013
Brendan Rodgers is looking forward to being part of Raheem Sterling's development © Getty Images

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has declared that winger Raheem Sterling can be a "big talent" for the club after recovering from a thigh problem.

The 18-year-old missed the final seven weeks of last season with the injury, which also forced him to pull out of the England Under-21 squad for the European Championship finals in Israel in June.

Sterling has regained his fitness, though, and has scored in both of Liverpool's pre-season games so far - a 4-0 victory at Preston on July 13 and a 2-0 win over an Indonesia XI in Jakarta last Saturday.

Rodgers is keen to manage the winger's development to avoid burnout, but feels he will be able to play a full part this coming season.

The Liverpool manager told the club's official website: "He's come back refreshed. He did work over the course of pre-season and was back and forward from his holidays into Melwood preparing himself well.

"He looks so fit, he looks sharp, he looks better than what he was last summer when I came in and I think he'll play a big part for us again this season.

"At 18 years of age, he has so much potential.

"If we nurture that well and he can retain his focus and mentality, he can be a big talent for Liverpool.

"I've been pleased with what I've seen from him so far."

Sterling, who made his Liverpool debut against Wigan in March 2012, was a regular starter under Rodgers during the first half of last season.

He went on to win his first senior England cap in a 4-2 friendly defeat against Sweden last November, and signed a five-year contract a month later.

But he showed signs of tiredness after Christmas, before being diagnosed with the thigh problem that ended his season.

Rodgers said: "It was a year ago when I came into the club and he came away with us on pre-season as a reserve/youth-team player and his enthusiasm, quality and tenacity really hit me.

"He ended up starting the season and for the first six months, he was sensational. He got a full England cap, which shows you the impact he made at 17 years of age. He went on to make more than 30 appearances.

"Towards the end of the season, there was a natural drop-off purely because of the youthfulness of him and also because of the pressure of playing for Liverpool and at the very top end of the game.

"I took him out of that, he had a little injury at the end of the season as well, but I wanted to protect him and make sure he didn't have too many miles on the clock too early."

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