Raheem Sterling, leaving Liverpool and the potential return to being a winger

One of the biggest deals in the Premier League so far this summer has seen Raheem Sterling seal his much-desired Liverpool exit, with Manchester City splurging a exuberant £49 million on the flying attacker.

A statement of intent by Manuel Pellegrini’s side, his purchase along with that of Fabian Delph bolsters the Etihad Stadium outfit’s homegrown tally and gives the Chilean trainer more options in his midfield.

For Liverpool, despite the arrival of Roberto Firmino expected to be followed by that of Christian Benteke, Sterling’s sale represents a major player leaving Anfield for the second consecutive summer.

Looking at it objectively, Sterling has got exactly what he wanted when he infamously approached the BBC for an interview earlier this year.

The 20-year-old rejected accusations of being a money grabber, while claiming that he had spurned a new deal on Merseyside for the good of his career and in an effort to win silverware.

There is no doubting that City look much more likely to be competing for trophies next season than Liverpool, while Sterling will also get the chance to play Champions League football with his new employers.

However, looking at it from the point of personal development, it remains to be seen whether the England international has made the right choice.

At Liverpool, Sterling was an essential member of Brendan Rodgers’ first team and an automatic selection when fit and available.

As many English players have found before him, this luxury will not be afforded at City and Sterling will have to be at his best to make Pellegrini’s starting XI.

Sterling’s rise to prominence over recent years must, to a significant degree, be accredited to Brendan Rodgers’ work with the player, with the youngster developing into a more-rounded attacker under the Northern Irishman’s guidance.

Raheem SterlingSterling’s speed meant that he was naturally fielded as a winger when he first broke into Premier League contention, but Rodgers has worked with the youngster to diversify his skillset and subsequently his ability to play in different positions.

As well as operating as a right wing-back, Sterling has spent considerable periods of time as a central striker in Daniel Sturridge’s absence and as a central attacking midfielder or number ten.

With Roy Hodgson also seeing the benefits of playing the Jamaica-born star in a central role and not out wide for England, Sterling’s versatility has all of a sudden become a major asset.

Despite the ability to play centrally, there is a question whether he will be afforded the opportunity at the Etihad Stadium.

When Pellegrini’s star-studded squad is all fit and firing, Sergio Agüero is the undoubted top choice as a lone striker in the 4-2-3-1 formation, while David Silva represents the perfect foil as the closest supporting player in the number ten role.

Although the diminutive Spaniard has operated from wide in the past, it has been proven that he is most effective when deployed centrally and hence more involved in the game.

These two world-class players accommodating the two furthest forward positions means that Sterling would have to be shunted back out onto a flank to be incorporated into Pellegrini’s formation.

With the questionable form of Jesús Navas and Samir Nasri over the last 12 months or longer, it could well be that City see Sterling as an answer to their unconvincing options on the wing.

Although the former Red can still thrive by cutting off his flank and linking up with the two afore-mentioned technical maestros, his role looks destined to be more on the peripheries than centre stage.

Sterling has all the attributes to be a class act in a City side with ambitions of grandeur both domestically and on the continent, but getting used to the lack of positional freedom he enjoyed at Liverpool looks set to be an early obstacle for the attacker to overcome.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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