Brendan Rodgers is delighted to see Raheem Sterling return to his best form for Manchester City this season – but hopes the England man can be kept quiet in their Champions League clash against Celtic.
Rodgers’ Celtic side come face to face with Sterling on Wednesday night at Parkhead and the Northern Irishman knows keeping the in-form City star quiet will be key to the Hoops’ chances.
Rodgers gave the winger his debut at Liverpool at the age of 17 and Sterling went on to move to City in 2015 for a deal reportedly worth £49million.
It’s clear the duo have a mutual respect for one another, with Sterling saying this about his former Liverpool manager.
And Rodgers too had nothing but praise for a player he still holds close to his heart.
“I have been so proud to watch him this season to the level that he has been at,” said Rodgers. “I am absolutely delighted for him.
“He was a great boy to work with. I think back to the time he was a young kid at Liverpool and to see him grow from that 17-year-old who made his first start, funny enough, against Manchester City at Anfield, not only as a player but as a person over three seasons.
“It was dificult the first season he left, it always is when you have so much expectation on you.
“You leave Liverpool for £49million and you are expected to perform right away and you have to remember he is a boy, he is 21-years of age.
“But he has really shown that with a focus, a way of working and a way of playing, he is a top-class player.
“For a season or so he drifted, maybe not so much to do with him.
“I think he needs to be in a clear structure, a clear way of playing and working and when he is, then he is one of the world’s leading young talents; super-fast, dynamic, great in one versus one, very strong.
“I always look out for players that I have worked with and hope they do well, none more so than him because he was absolutely brilliant for me.
“So I am looking forward to seeing him – hopefully he doesn’t play so well – but at this moment in time he is in great form.”
Rodgers on how to stop Sterling
Asked how he could be stopped, Rodgers replied: “You can’t kick him that’s for sure, because he is very strong, one of the strongest young guys you will come across, although he maybe doesn’t look it.
“He gets a wee bit of stick when he travels to games still which I don’t understand why. He is a great boy as well.
“He always wanted to train every day. He never had a lazy day, wanted to improve, wanted to get better and gave his all for Liverpool when I was there so it is great to see him do so well and Pep knows he has got a big talent.”