England manager Roy Hodgson has challenged Liverpool contract rebel Raheem Sterling to emulate Chelsea star Eden Hazard as he develops, reports the Daily Express.
The 20-year-old has been in the headlines recently because of his refusal to sign a new deal at Anfield, but his national team boss wants to concentrate on the youngster’s football. In 47 appearances this season the forward has eight goals and eight assists, which is disappointing after he was expected to kick on from the nine goals and five assists he had in just 33 Premier League appearances last time round.
However, Hodgson doesn’t think that the headlines will affect the winger’s game in the long term. The 67-year-old also believes that the perfect example for Sterling to follow is in the Premier League right now.
He said: “I like everyone else is a great admirer of Hazard. He has been fantastic and watching him play has been a joy. I would like to think that Raheem can also reach very high levels. He’s already won the young player of the award for Liverpool. There’s no reason why he can’t look three, four years ahead and hope he will be at that level.”
The former Reds boss continued: “I think Raheem this year has ridden several situations when he’s been in the headlines for other than football reasons. He has ridden those very, very well. The games I have seen him play recently, even when Liverpool haven’t been at their best, I still think his contribution has been a good one.
“I’m rather hoping that this season will make him even stronger. He will lose none of his football qualities whatsoever, and maybe mentally he will be a little more prepared for what being a star for Liverpool and England means.”
England play a friendly against Ireland and a European Championship qualifier against Slovenia in June, and it is likely that Sterling will play in both fixtures. With the side looking set to qualify for the Euros with ease, the friendly match could actually be more competitive due to the long running rivalry between the two nations.