Few youngsters have had the same impact on a football club as Raheem Sterling had at Liverpool. The forward was a huge hit at Anfield, scoring superb goals and providing fantastic assists during his time with the Reds.
Now playing with Liverpool rivals Manchester City, the attacker could play a key role when the clubs come together in league action on Sunday. Both teams are eyeing the Premier League trophy, with just one point separating the pair at the top.
While Sterling may not be having his most productive season in front of goal, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be well aware of the threat he possesses. The German didn’t manage the forward at the Reds, but the pair have crossed paths plenty of times over the years, and Klopp will know just how important it will be to stop Sterling should he play.
If he doesn’t play a major role, Sterling needn’t worry, with City once again coming face to face with Liverpool just six days later in the FA Cup semi-final. He’s certainly in form, grabbing two assists in the recent win against Burnley.
The winger always gets a tough time from Reds fans, but they know all too well just how special he was during his brief spell at the club.
Raheem Sterling key to Liverpool revival
Liverpool had been going through a pretty dark time under Roy Hodgson, with things improving slightly under Anfield hero Kenny Dalglish. But 2012 saw the arrival of Brendan Rodgers, with his entertaining, attacking football the perfect setting for a young Sterling to show the world what he was capable of.
Rodgers’ appointment led to the progression of Sterling into a fully-fledged first-team player, with the teenager having made a handful of appearances at the end of the previous campaign under Dalglish.
The Northern Irish boss was the perfect mentor, shaping the youngster into one of the league’s deadliest forwards. Together with the lethal Daniel Sturridge and the formidable Luis Suarez, Sterling formed one of the most prolific front threes in Premier League history.
His direct dribbling, strength on the ball, vision, awareness and selflessness in front of goal were all characteristics that showed he was wise beyond his years. He was a huge hit at Anfield, terrorising opposition defenders and linking up expertly with Sturridge and Suarez.
The 2013/14 campaign in particular will, of course, live long in the memory of all connected to Liverpool, for both good and bad reasons. While the club ultimately fell short in their title pursuit – finishing two points behind Sterling’s future side City – Liverpool fans finally saw their team challenging once again.
On an individual level, Suarez strolled to the Golden Boot with 31 goals, followed by Sturridge in second place with 21. Sterling himself netted nine times, with his efforts rewarding him with Liverpool’s Young Player of the Season award. He also won the 2014 Golden Boy award for his phenomenal displays in red.
Another fine season followed, in which he scored seven goals and won the club’s Young Player of the Season award once again. It would, however, be his last run out with the club.
Which other players have played for both Man City and Liverpool?
Sterling spent three years with the Liverpool first-team, making 129 appearances in all competitions. The attacker netted 23 goals for the Reds, and chipped in with 25 assists. He also earned his first England call-up while playing for the Anfield outfit, and has since gone on to become a key player for his country.
Of course, Sterling isn’t the only footballer to have lined out for both Man City and Liverpool. Indeed, there is a long list of talented players who have donned both Manchester blue and Merseyside red.
Perhaps the most famous is Robbie Fowler, while Nicolas Anelka is another talented striker who featured for City and Liverpool. Other attackers to achieve the feat include Craig Bellamy and Peter Beardsley.
Iconic striker Mario Balotelli and Reds hero Sturridge are also on the list, along with midfielders James Milner and Dietmar Hamann. Steve McManaman and Steve McMahon also lined out for both clubs, as did Kolo Toure and David James.
Completing the list are Matt Busby and Albert Riera, perhaps lesser-known parts of this popular career trajectory. The former spent eight years in blue before his managerial heroics in red, while the latter had a brief loan spell in Manchester before a two-year period in Liverpool.
Who is the best front three in modern football history?
That connection between Sterling, Suarez and Sturridge will be remembered long into the future by, not only Liverpool supporters, but by fans of the beautiful game in general.
There have, however, been other attacking trios who aim to lay claim to being the best front three ever. Real Madrid’s deadly trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale were dominating world football not so long ago, rivalled by the insane attacking talents of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar.
Barcelona previously had a world-class front three of Messi, David Villa and Pedro, with all three scoring in the club’s 2010/11 Champions League final win over Manchester United. Current Barca trio Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele will be hoping to have a similar impact at the Catalan club.
Also potentially on the list is Man City’s current attack. Despite not relying on a regular front three, Pep Guardiola could certainly assemble a formidable trio from the likes of Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus.
Not so long ago, Liverpool relied on Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, but even that – like City’s attack – has become more changeable in recent times with the arrival of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz.
Raheem Sterling Liverpool stats
Liverpool Young Player of the Season: 2013/14, 2014/15