Liverpool legend Barnes: Sterling still cannot be called world class

Precociously-talented Reds attacker Raheem Sterling still has five years to go before he can be defined as an elite player, asserts John Barnes.

Raheem Sterling is on the cusp of agreeing a new bumper contract that will see his net pay rise from £43,000 per week to a staggering £125,000 per week.

The up-and-coming Englishman has begun the new campaign in tremendous fashion, but his form has piqued the interest of a number of championship-chasing clubs like Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

When Barnes joined Liverpool in 1987 he was already a mature athlete, at 24, but went on to become an integral part of the side that won league honours in 1988 and 1990.

Sterling broke into the team before even Brendan Rodgers took over at Anfield but like Barnes he has one physical asset that gets fans out of their seats - pace and considerable ability with the ball at his feet.

Barnes disputes the notion that Sterling needs to leave the North-West in order to continue his rapid footballing development - even though, in his own words, he is five years off being called world class.

"He's still a very young player and he hasn't maximised his potential yet," said Barnes, as quoted by the Daily Star.

"It'll be four or five years until he can really be classed as a world-class superstar player. In England, and we've seen the same with Ross Barkley, it takes six good games and all of a sudden you're a world-class player - but it's not right."

He continued: "He's got great potential and of course I'd like him to stay at Liverpool. Although modern footballers do seem to come and go, why would you want to leave Liverpool? For what reason?

"You're playing for a high-level fantastic side and it's important not to look too long term at that age."

Sterling, still only 19, has contributed 29 dribbles, 25 key passes, two assists and has scored three goals in nine Premier League starts (and one as a substitute).

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