Brendan Rodgers says he has always been impressed by Raheem Sterling’s drive to be “one of the best” as he prepares to face the Manchester City forward on Monday.
Leicester City boss Rodgers was in charge at Liverpool as Sterling established himself as a star before moving to the Etihad Stadium ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.
That switch made Sterling unpopular with Reds fans, yet he has established himself as one of the Premier League’s top players, winning the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year awards this season.
While Rodgers was sacked at Anfield soon after Sterling’s transfer, he is delighted that the move panned out for the England international.
The Leicester manager ranks the 24-year-old as “clearly one of the best players in the world” and revealed this had been a stated aim for the forward from a young age.
“What I loved about Raheem was that, for a young boy, he knew what he wanted to be,” Rodgers told reporters.
“When I ask young players what is it they want to achieve, he wanted to be one of the best players in the world – at that age . And that was where he was unique, because sometimes the British players may not have that ambition.
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) April 28, 2019
“Off the pitch, he’s an incredible kid. He’s very loving and supportive of his family. You see a lot of the things that he does, and that’s not just now – that’s how he was back then as a young boy.
“He had a great base at Liverpool and then went on. He’s taken his game to a level where he’s clearly one of the best players in the world.
“He’s a great talent and a great father as well – he would bring his daughter around to the house to play. He’s a really special player and a really great boy.”
And Rodgers explained that it was this ambition, rather than financial gain, that led to Sterling’s move.
“For Raheem, it was never ever about money,” he said. “If it was about money, he could have stayed at Liverpool. It was about being the best he can be.
“And in that moment there was an opportunity to go to Manchester City, where they had top-class players. He’s gone in there and developed and become a winner, which is clear to see in his game.
“I look at Pep Guardiola’s team and it’s not the same if he’s not in it. What a testament that is to a young English player.”
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