What Raheem Sterling's Golden Boy award could mean for his future

Raheem Sterling has been crowned Europe's Golden Boy, so we've decided to analyse past winners and see what it suggests about the Liverpool youngster's future.

Today it was announced that Liverpool wonderkid Raheem Sterling has won the most coveted individual honour for a youngster in European football.

The club's official Twitter account revealed that their most prized asset has clinched the 2014 European Golden Boy award, which was decided by the votes of sports journalists throughout the continent.

Sterling is some talent, that there is no doubt. At just 20 years old he has arguably become the most important for Brendan Rodgers's Liverpool side and has also begun to stamp his mark on the senior stage for England.

Now that he is officially the most exciting young talent in Europe, how far can he go in top-flight football? Sterling is only the 12th winner of the award that has been running now since 2003, but within the previous 11 victors there are numerous players who are now considered to be among the best on the planet.

Past winners include: Rafael van der Vaart (2003), Wayne Rooney (2004), Lionel Messi (2005), Cesc Fabregas (2006), Sergio Aguero (2007), Anderson (2008), Alexandre Pato (2009), Mario Balotelli (2010), Mario Gotze (2011), Isco (2012), Paul Pogba (2013).

It's difficult to judge some of Sterling's predecessors given that they are still relatively young, but only three recipients on this list have flopped since winning the accolade. 

Manchester United's Anderson, Corinthian's Pato and arguably Balotelli of Liverpool; all three players had the footballing world at their feet when they won this prestigious award in their respective years, but none of them has looked close to reaching his full potential since then.

What does this mean for young Sterling? Well, the odds are in his favour; only three of 11 have flopped, whereas the other nine inclusions have made significant impacts domestically and on the world footballing stage.

Should Sterling continue in the same rich vein of form he has been showing in the past season and a half, then there is a great chance he will become the ninth Golden Ball winner to be considered one of the best players in the world.

Another interesting observation that Liverpool fans won't be too excited to hear is that from the list of winners only Messi, Anderson and Pogba have all remained with the club that helped them to win this title. The eight other winners all moved onto play for bigger and richer clubs.

With Sterling's contract talks on-going and Liverpool failing to maintain the heights of last season domestically, the winger could be the next on this list to abandon the club that helped him make such a thrilling impact on the game. 

Regardless of his age, there will be a whole line of suitors queuing up to offer the 20-year-old the contract he wants should Liverpool continue to dig their heels in.

Now that Sterling and his agent have another justification for his reportedly high wage demands, the club would be sensible to settle his contract disputes sooner rather than later.

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