Adam Lallana has called on Liverpool not to cash in on Raheem Sterling during the close-season, as he would not fancy facing his England team-mate in an opposition shirt next season.
Sterling has been linked with a move away from Anfield after talks over a new contract stalled.
Manchester City are thought to be interested in the forward – who has two years left on his current deal – with the Eastlands club rumoured to be lining up a second bid for the 20-year-old after reportedly having an initial £30million offer knocked back.
But, after playing a whole season with Sterling in the Premier League, Lallana is more than aware of his qualities and hopes he remains part of Brendan Rodgers’ squad.
“He’s a great lad and, for me, people are obviously talking too much about him. He’s a really down-to-earth lad and I just hope he stays at Liverpool because he’s a fantastic player and a good friend,” the midfielder told the Telegraph.
“He’s just like any other young, enthusiastic footballer – plays with a smile on his face on the pitch and in training. You just hope he’s on your team otherwise he’ll end up running rings around you.”
Sterling was the subject of jeers from the crowd when he pulled on an England shirt against the Republic of Ireland last weekend, and Lallana feels his team-mate is being unfairly singled out.
“I suppose I do have sympathy for him. He just wants to get on with his football and play. He’s still got two years left on his contract so that speaks for itself, really.
“It’s not… I’m sure you guys [the media] talk about it and about him possibly leaving or staying but I know him as a team-mate and he’s a top, top, top lad. Just a great guy.”
Meanwhile, Lallana has also heaped praise on boss Rodgers, insisting that he was surprised there was any doubt that he would stay in charge of the club.
“Of course I am delighted he’s still here,” he added. “In my eyes, there wasn’t really any doubt in him being here for next season.
“It’s been an up-and-down season. We reached two semi-finals and we were disappointed that we couldn’t get to the final.
“At one point we were closing in on the top four but missed out there. But we’ve got a lot of new players and off the back of such a promising year last year, when they nearly won the league, the expectation was always going to be really high.”
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