Looking at potential replacements for wantaway Raheem Sterling at Liverpool

Player Focus: Who Liverpool Could Target to Replace Wantaway Sterling
Comparing Raheem Sterling’s performances in 2014 to 2015

Raheem Sterling is now public enemy number one in England, with ill-advised interviews and statements from his agent having sullied his reputation to the degree that he is now being booed at international, as well as club level.

It's a lot for a 20-year old to have to deal with and you could forgive the youngster for wanting to get as far away from all the ridicule as possible, despite reported interest from elsewhere in the Premier League. Barring a u-turn with regards to his immediate future it certainly seems that Sterling will be heading for the exit door at Melwood this summer, in which case it will be up to the club to find a suitable replacement.

The Reds have already acted fast to bring in the likes of James Milner and Danny Ings, with Divock Origi also set to return to the club, but fans will be wary of the fact that there have been some poor signings made under the current management. We've compiled a list of players that could be on the club's radar should Sterling make his expected departure ahead of next season, with some admittedly far more ambitious targets than others.

Felipe Anderson is certainly among those, with Liverpool's reported interest from earlier in the year thought to have dampened as the Brazilian's transfer fee has rocketed after a sensational debut season in Serie A. A rating of 7.47 was enough to rank seventh in Italy's top tier; an astonishing achievement when considering he only cemented a place in the starting line-up just before the winter break, with 9 of 32 appearances coming as a substitute.

The 22-year old's season petered out a little after a remarkable start to the calendar year but tallies of 10 goals, 7 assists and 102 dribbles - second most in Serie A - were enough to convince Dunga that Anderson warranted a place in his Copa America squad. Depending on his exploits in Chile you can expect a price tag upwards of £30m on the winger's head, and unfortunately for Liverpool the lure of Champions League football will likely prove too strong, just as it is with Sterling.

Elsewhere among the Selecao this summer, joining Liverpool's Coutinho is Roberto Firmino, who has made an appearance in the Reds rumour mills on more than the odd occasion. Again, it may prove wishful thinking but there would also be little harm in chancing their arm when it comes to bidding on a player that has proven to be one of the brightest talents in the Bundesliga in recent seasons.

The Hoffenheim playmaker prefers to operate from a more central position but, like Sterling, looks to run at defenders before playing that decisive pass. He has more guile than the Liverpool man, heralding 10 assists to supplement 7 goals last season, and a rating of 7.79 from WhoScored.com was bettered only by Arjen Robben and Kevin De Bruyne in Germany's top-flight.

Player Focus: Who Liverpool Could Target to Replace Wantaway Sterling
Statistical comparison of potential replacements for Raheem Sterling

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga only one player completed more dribbles than Firmino (139), and that was Karim Bellarabi. Now 25, the Leverkusen winger has proven something of a late bloomer, spending last season on loan with relegated Braunschweig before really being given his chance at the BayArena under Roger Schmidt. It's been a season he'll never forget, earning a place in Jogi Loew's Germany squad in a minor revamp after Die Mannschaft's World Cup glory.

Bellarabi scored 12 goals and picked up 6 assists for a rating of 7.64 in the Bundesliga, firing off 3.2 shots and completing 4.7 dribbles per game - up from an encouraging 2.1 and 3.3 respectively from the previous campaign. He may be a cheaper option than the two previous here, with Liverpool having dealt with Leverkusen before in the capture of Emre Can, who would prove to be the one summer signing to truly impress last season.

Elsewhere in Europe Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco was making a name for himself in Monaco and arguably represents one of the closest, like-for-like replacements for Sterling available.

Having broken into the first team in the French principality the season previous, the 2014/15 campaign saw the young Belgian become a full international and a target for a number of clubs across Europe. The 21-year old could be in Liverpool's price range and possesses similar characteristics to Sterling, averaging 2.1 shots and 1.6 key passes for tallies of 6 goals and 10 assists, along with 2.4 dribbles per game.

Player Focus: Who Liverpool Could Target to Replace Wantaway Sterling
Breaking down Carrasco’s strengths and weaknesses

If the club are looking to bring in players on a more reserved budget and perhaps with a little more experience there are some out there that excelled last season. Liverpool fans won't want reminding of their last dealing with Celta Vigo but the man signed to help cover for the goals of Anfield-bound Iago Aspas in 2013 has gone on to be a real success at the club.

28-year old Nolito is now a Spain international and in Vicente del Bosque's current squad after an outstanding 2014/15 campaign. The left-sided forward scored 13 goals but perhaps more impressively coupled that with a further 13 assists, having struck 14 times in his debut season at the club.

An impressive all-rounder going forwards, Nolito placed just outside La Liga's top 10 players in WhoScored's ratings, with a score of 7.47 coming courtesy of 2.9 shots, 2.7 key passes and 2.1 dribbles per game.

Moving away from La Liga, just as this Argentine did last summer, Diego Perotti appears to have rekindled what promised to be a prodigious career with a move to Genoa. The tricky winger looked likely to go on to bigger and better things after an impressive start to life with Sevilla but saw his playing time restricted in his last 3 seasons at the club ahead of a move to Serie A.

Now 26, Perotti completed more dribbles per game (3.6) than any other player in Italy's top-flight last season, whilst delivering the most accurate crosses when excluding corners (36). Meanwhile, an average of 2 key passes per game was bettered only by 5 Serie A players for a rating of 7.48 from WhoScored.com, with any transfer fee likely to be considerably cheaper than the alternatives here.

With Sterling's form having dropped substantially since the news came out that he was looking to move on there are certainly alternatives out there. In addition they would likely cost less than any fee received for the England international, so the Reds could still cope without a player Rodgers previously claimed was the best youngster in Europe.

Failure to secure Champions League football, however, will likely dictate how ambitious they can be in any attempt to replace their want-away winger.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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