Raheem Sterling will risk stagnating as a player if he leaves Liverpool this summer, warned departing captain Steven Gerrard.
The unhappy forward is seemingly attempting to force his way out of the club, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid all linked with the 20-year-old.
But Gerrard, who is set to end his long spell at Liverpool when he moves to the LA Galaxy, has said that Sterling should be careful what he wishes for - and that it will be better for his development to stay at a team where he is a first-team regular.
Who could Liverpool sign to replace Raheem Sterling?
Who could Liverpool sign to replace Raheem Sterling?
1/7 Felipe Anderson
The Lazio midfielder has enjoyed his breakthrough season in Italy this year, but that has alerted a number of clubs across Europe including Liverpool. The 22-year-old Brazilian is contracted to the Serie A club until 2020 and will therefore cost a significant amount if he were to move this summer, but it’s believed he has the potential to become one of the most dangerous attacking midfielders in the world if he continues his steep development curve.
2/7 Theo Walcott
Arsenal’s pace merchant is finding it hard to break back into the first team after recovering from the ruptured cruciate ligament that sidelined him for over a year. With doubts over his fitness, his suitability to the current Arsenal side and whether he’s a better option compared to his team-mates, rumours have linked him with a dramatic Arsenal exit. Liverpool would be one of the teams in for the England winger, who can also play in attack, and given that his speed can terrify any defence he would be a suitable option to replace Sterling.
3/7 Marco Reus
Any move for Reus appears to be hinged on firing Brendan Rodgers and hiring Jürgen Klopp, and given the noises coming out of Anfield, it’s unlikely to happen this summer. But if another transfer window goes belly-up, don’t be surprised to see Klopp at the club soon after with Reus in tow. The Germany international is a wonderfully gifted player who combines pace and skill to dazzle defences. He has struggled with a persistent ankle injury in recent months, but he would add a proven quality to the Liverpool ranks.
4/7 Divock Origi
Rodgers already knows one signing he will see arrive at Anfield in the summer as Belgium striker Divock Origi will complete the permanent move he agreed last year, having spent the season on loan with Lille. Rodgers could look to revert to the tactics he deployed last season when he had Luis Suarez to pair up with Daniel Sturridge, and although Origi is nowhere near the level Suarez was at present, the Northern Irishman will hope he has unearthed a gem when he arrives in the Premier League.
5/7 Alexandre Lacazette
The French forward is being courted by the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, but Liverpool could look to show a sign of intent by launching a bid for him before their rivals. Lacazette is equally adept at playing as a striker or out wide, and it would depend on how Rodgers would choose to deploy him to where he would feature. The France international has helped Lyon secure second in Ligue 1 and will finish the season as top goalscorers barring any heroics from Andre-Pierre Gignac, who trails by six goals.
6/7 Jeremy Menez
Menez’s brother and agent has fuelled talk of a move away from AC Milan by admitting he is likely to leave this summer, and even addressed rumours of a move to Liverpool as well as Monaco. However, at this point in time they are just rumours, and despite being able to play out wide he is more suited to an attacking role through the middle.
7/7 Ezequiel Lavezzi
The Argentine has fallen off the radar in recent months, but his future at Paris Saint-Germain remains far from certain and a move to the Premier League has always appeared on the cards. At home out wide on the wing, Lavezzi can also do a job up front, and would bring a physicality to the attack that is currently missing in Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Ibe.
Gerrard has warned the England youngster that should he move to one of those clubs he risks sitting on the bench as those clubs tend to show less patience with young players.
"I wish I did know (what will happen) because I have been reading a lot about him myself," said the 35-year-old, who will be a pundit on BT Sport next season.
Relations between the club and the player's agent Aidy Ward hit a low last month when the Reds cancelled a meeting to restart negotiations over a new deal after comments from Ward suggesting the 20-year-old would not sign a new contract.
The England international turned down Liverpool's £100,000-a-week offer in January and all the noises coming from the player's camp since appear to have been designed to manufacture a move away.
"I think the only two people that know are Raheem and his agent. I think for the player's sake and for all of us fans out there he needs to make the decision quickly," added Gerrard.
"I hope he stays. I think for his development as a player he has a fantastic manager to look after him, a great set of team-mates.
"I think it's important he plays week in week out, keeps trying to learn and strive to become a world-class player.
"I think the frustrating thing for me would be if he went to a club and became a squad player and just another number and he didn't have that chance to progress. That's the risk."
Gerrard's departure from Anfield, confirmed back in January, turned out to be the first of many with fellow players Glen Johnson and Brad Jones not offered new contracts and, following an end-of-season review, assistant manager Colin Pascoe and coach Mike Marsh also lost their jobs.
"I was very surprised. I didn't expect there to be any changes in the staff positions," added Gerrard.
"I think Brendan (Rodgers) and the bosses have made those decisions and I'm looking in with a keen interest to see who he puts alongside him and how he tries to improve or strengthen his staff moving forward.
"A lot of names have been mentioned but I can't give you any insight or names because I'm now on the outside and don't have that relationship with Brendan any more where I might have got a bit of a nudge on it.
"I think Brendan will obviously have felt he needed to make some changes and freshen certain things up in his staff.
"I am very interested to see who he puts in alongside him and also to hear Brendan speak in a press conference to see why he has decided to make those decisions."
Former Reds assistant manager Pako Ayestaran, ex-defender Sami Hyypia and one-time Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen have all been linked with the posts.
The position of Rodgers remains safe following his review with chairman Tom Werner and Mike Gordon - president of club owners Fenway Sports Group - but he has been left in no doubt improvements have to be made after last season's sixth-place finish.
Additional reporting from PA