Raheem Sterling: Is the Liverpool forward really the best young player in Europe?

That was the claim of Reds manager Brendan Rodgers after the youngster scored twice in the win over Norwich

After scoring two goals in the 3-2 over Norwich, Raheem Sterling was singled out for praise by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

The win at Carrow Road saw the Reds move five points clear at the top of the Premier League table and take a huge step to winning their first league title since 1990.

Sterling scored the opening goal of the match, laid on the second for Luis Suarez and scored the visiting team's third thanks to a fortunate deflection. It was a performance that led Rodgers to claim the 19-year-old is the best young player in Europe.

"He is the best young player in European football at the moment," said the Liverpool manager.

"At 19 years of age you don't see anyone better. His intelligence with the ball, his movement and he's scoring goals. His first goal was a wonderful strike. He's just shifted it, got his shot off; to beat a goalkeeper of John Ruddy's quality shows you the quality of the strike.

"His pass for Luis' goal was like a top midfield player, so there's an assist, and his position for the counter attack when he broke away and obviously gets a bit of luck on the deflection but his overall performance he's shown so much maturity."

Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich  

High praise indeed from the Liverpool manager - but is he right? Is Sterling the best young player in Europe?

In a poll by respected Italian publication Gazetta Dello Sport released earlier this month, Sterling came fifth among the best players under 20 in Europe.

Ahead of him were Manchester United's Belgian-born winger Adnan Januzaj, who was first, Chelsea's Brazilian forward Lucas Piazon, who is currently on loan in the Netherlands with Vitesse, Paris Saint Germain defender Marquinhos and Gerard Deulofeu, who is on loan at Everton from Barcelona.

That meant Sterling came fifth - but the poll was taken just as Sterling was hitting top gear for Liverpool.

 

His man-of-the-match performance against Norwich was truly deserved as Rodgers laid out in his post match comments. It came on the back of the heels of another inspired display in what was Liverpool's biggest game of the season - the 3-2 win over Manchester City at Anfield.

Sterling scored after just a few minutes in that game, just as he did against Norwich. His composed finish that sent Joe Hart the wrong way showed incredible calmness for such a young player.

Read more: Liverpool's remaining three fixtures
Norwich 2 Liverpool 3 - match report
Sterling is the 'best young player in Europe' - Rodgers

Sterling is among the six nominees for the PFA Young Player of the Year award. Aaron Ramsey, Daniel Sturridge, Eden Hazard, Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley are the others that are included in an incredibly strong line-up.

Should Liverpool claim the Premier League title, it will arguably be Sterling and Sturridge most worthy of the award. The latter has netted 20 goals in the league this term and proved himself to be a consistent goal getter.

Yet it is the run of 11 straight wins that has taken Liverpool clear at the top of the table - and during that spell Sterling has been arguably more influential. In the current winning run Sturridge has scored six - the same number as Sterling.

Read more: Suarez vows to 'keep calm and focus on Chelsea'
The two sides of Suarez on show against Norwich

Among the other contenders for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, Hazard is the standout name. The Chelsea player creates a chance once every 31.7 minutes, better than Sterling's 45.6. The Belgian also completes more dribbles as well.

Like Sturridge, Hazard has been excellent across the season. But Sterling is the man in form - in those 11 games along with his six goals he has two assists to his name. That's a better record than the Chelsea player who has the same number of assists but has scored one less goal over the same number of games.

Sterling is unlikely to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award this season - so any chance of being recognised as the best player in Europe over the whole term is unlikely - and wouldn't even be deserved. But right now, there is arguably no other teenager playing such a key role in taking their side to the title.

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