Raheem Sterling has admitted he still has affection for Liverpool despite the acrimonious nature of his move to Manchester City five years ago.
England forward Sterling burst onto the scene as a teenager with the Reds before leaving for City in a bitter and protracted deal worth an initial £44million in 2015.
He has since developed into one of the best players in Europe but he has always been booed on his returns to Anfield.
Yet that has not stopped the 25-year-old retaining a soft spot for his old club, although he sidestepped a direct question on whether he would return to Liverpool in a live internet Q&A session.
Speaking via the Instagram account of his representatives Colossal Sports Management, Sterling said: “Would I ever go back to Liverpool? To be honest with you, I love Liverpool.
“Don’t get it twisted, they are always in my heart, do you know what I mean?
“It’s a team that (has) done a lot for me growing up.”
The winger was also involved in a bust-up with Joe Gomez in November at Anfield in a game in which Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners over Manchester City.
Sterling reportedly grabbed Gomez by the throat in the England canteen, and has since apologised for the situation in which he admits he “let emotions get the better of me”.
The Manchester City forward was not be considered for England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro after the altercation, which spilled over following the confrontation at Anfield.
And The Athletic claimed that ‘Liverpool were thought to be angry that Gomez has been put in this situation through no fault of his own.’
Plenty has been written about the confrontation between the pair, with some outlets suggesting the scratch on Gomez’s face had been caused by Sterling’s fingernails.
However, the Daily Mirror claimed the cut came about after Sterling tried to get Gomez in a headlock, with his jewellery actually causing the abrasion under his eye.
Sterling had also allegedly said to Gomez “So you think you’re the big man?” before reportedly grappling with him.
“Raheem in his post last night explained for a very brief moment his emotions ran over,” Southgate said. “It would be correct to say that’s not the same for Joe.
“We are dealing with a very young squad in a sport where emotions often run high. These things happen in football. My priority is always the care and wellbeing of all my players. All my players.
“Then you have a decision to make as to whether there needs to be something further, which is my reasoning for not selecting Raheem for the game on Thursday.”