Raheem Sterling: Player Profile

From Future Prospect To Current Star

Personal information 
Full name: Raheem Shaquille Sterling
Date of birth: 8 December 1994
Age: 19
Place of birth: Kingston, Jamaica
Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Playing position: Winger

Club information 
Current club: Liverpool
Number: 31

Youth career 
2003–2010: Queens Park Rangers
2010–2012: Liverpool

Senior career
2012– Liverpool: 75 Appearances, 12 goals

National team
2009–2010 England U16: 9 Appearances, 1 goal
2010–2011 England U17: 13 Appearances, 3 goals
2012 England U19: 1 Appearance, 0 goals
2012– England U21: 8 Appearances, 3 goals
2012– England: 2 Appearances, 0 goals

Brendan Rodgers has had a knack of making good decisions this season, often by stealth. One of his more recent, light-touch tactical manoeuvres was spotlit six minutes into the defeat of Manchester City.

Liverpool's opening goal at Anfield was a fine piece of execution and interplay all round, from the wiggle of Luis Suarez's hips that left Gael Clichy in a heap, to the turn and timing of Suarez's pass to put Raheem Sterling in on goal.

If this seems an obvious moment to pick out from Sterling's relentlessly fine all-round display then football often is a business of obvious game-changing moments.

Whether by design or happy accident – and Rodgers is so relentlessly exploratory with his front four the two are indistinguishable – it is a role that has highlighted Sterling's best qualities.

He has an instant soft-touch feel for a pass. He brings other great qualities too, most notably his sheer scuttling relentlessness.

It is a distinctly modern take on the role, not so much the strolling and in fairness Sterling will never quite have that level of inventive artistry – but a high-energy probing presence, always moving, always playing with his head up, with an ability to beat his man on both sides, to pass or shoot with both feet, and the same easy gliding acceleration from first minute to last.

He has scored seven times in the league this season, created 34 chances, had 30 shots and more importantly blossomed on occasion as an assertive, high-pressure, beautifully controlled winger.

Right now he looks, as he always does in possession, intriguingly poised, a player with obvious gifts of speed and lateral movement, who has been given the chance to show his precocious footballing intelligence in a position that has been something close to a blank page in English football's recent history.

Head up, always moving, hungry for the ball, Sterling has above all been bold, for whom those last three “cup finals” will provide a fascinating test of creative nerve.

Just as notable again is the spectacle of dramatic, tangible improvement in a player in his late teens. Sterling was a genuine prodigy at Queens Park Rangers and then, from 14, in Liverpool's youth teams.

Homesick and small for his age, but blessed with barrel-chested physical strength and emotional maturity – he has still blossomed where so many others stutter, continuing to learn and improve beyond the potentially ruinous early stardom of a Premier League and England debut aged just 18.

He is naturally strong and, as he settled in at the club, his stamina took Liverpool staff by surprise. In one test, head of sports medicine Peter Brukner monitored Sterling’s performance during an FA Youth Cup tie that went to extra time.

He discovered Sterling’s running intensity was the same in the 118th minute as it had been in the third, a feat Brukner considered ‘incredible’.

In comparison with the performance of then first-team striker Fernando Torres, staff said the figures were like ‘night and day’.

There’s no doubt the watching Roy Hodgson will be purring at the prospect of Sterling repeating what he did to Vincent Kompany against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.

His size, he is still only 5ft 7in, has seen him dismissed by those who don’t know him well. But, for a small man, Sterling relishes the physical side of football. However, despite his speed and athleticism, Sterling could not run away from his problems off the pitch.

Leaving his Wembley home and his beloved mum, Nadine, at 15 had not been easy. An inspirational woman of strong Christian beliefs, Nadine had moved her family to England from Maverley, Jamaica, when her son was just five.

Liverpool is not the easiest of clubs – and quite often not the easiest of cities – to be a precocious teenager everyone recognises.

Sterling is not a Kop Academy graduate like Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard – he was signed for a record fee for a 15-year-old from QPR in 2010 – but he must have felt burdened with the same responsibility in those early months, seeking to win over an audience which tends to view newcomers with preliminary suspicion before it evolves into full hero worship.

Today Rodgers speaks glowingly of Sterling’s capacity to absorb tactical advice, a point underlined by his versatility in a flexible system, enabling him to flourish as an orthodox winger or on the point of a diamond formation.

He has gone from Liverpool’s bench, realistically targeting the 2016 European Championships, to ensuring there will be a public inquiry if he is not in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad this summer.

Sterling is an altogether different symbol of English football now. He is firmly established as the player who most represents an era of glorious possibilities for club and country.