Raheem Sterling is going nowhere, vows Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers last night insisted Liverpool is the one club that can give Raheem Sterling the regular football that will ensure his development as one of the country's finest forwards.
Despite Sterling's television interview that seemed to cast further doubt on the 20-year-old's willingness to remain on Merseyside, Rodgers pointed out the striker "still needs guidance and help".
Rodgers recognises the club he manages is a different Liverpool from the one of another generation, where players only left at the club's instigation.
Despite a second-place finish last season, Anfield is not the pull it once was.
Last summer Rodgers oversaw the departure of Luis Suarez, now he is faced with Sterling's representatives trying to force their player out of Anfield.
However, if they succeed, Liverpool will not receive the £75m they were paid for Suarez and Sterling will not be going to Barcelona.
"The challenges Liverpool face now are greater than they were 20 years ago," said Rodgers.
"The challenges are huge. It does not affect the status of Liverpool, it is still an incredibly huge club around the world but the modern player is different.
"But for a young player there is no better place to develop.
"We want that youthfulness. You do not want another team to come and take it.
"My focus is to keep this group together and compete for trophies."
Sterling's representatives have targeted Liverpool over money - they believe the club's offer of a contract worth £100,000 a week is not the player's market value.
On Wednesday, Sterling told the BBC he was more interested in trophies than wages and resented being asked to play wing back.
Arsenal, the club that Sterling - who grew up in north London - has been most strongly linked with, have won one trophy in a decade.
However, it was the accusation of being played out of position that drew the strongest response from his manager.
"I pick the best team," said Rodgers.
"What is key for him - and I am sure he understands this - is that he is getting the opportunity to play.
"If you look through this league and the top leagues in Europe, there are not many playing at 17, 18, 19 or 20.
"He only needs to look at Steven Gerrard in his time here.
"Steven has played in a back three, as a wing back, a right back, a left back, centre midfield and a number 10. Has he played as a striker? I am sure he must have done."
One thing is clear; Raheem Sterling is a determined young man.
There are not many 20-year-olds who would have been comfortable discussing their future on television in an interview they instigated.
"It is something he looked to do but it has not evolved how he would have wanted it," said Rodgers.
"He has had trauma in his life and he is a tough boy - you see that in how he plays.
"But he is still very young; he still needs guidance and help. That is pretty clear," he added.
Rodgers was insistent that Sterling would not be sold, not even if they received a 'ridiculous offer' in the summer.
"I do not see it," the Liverpool boss said.
"Ultimately, I do not speak for the owners but I have a good idea of what they would do.
"I know them well enough and it would not happen."
Neither the chairman, Tom Werner, nor the principal owner, John W Henry, had seen the interview.
The club was only aware Sterling would be speaking to the BBC about his future on the afternoon it was broadcast.
Since the interview was unauthorised, Liverpool may fine Sterling before tomorrow's game with Arsenal, a club the striker said he was "flattered to be linked with."
Some at the club feel that Sterling himself is not sure where his future lies but is being propelled towards the exit by his agent.
Aidy White may be on course to make Sterling one of the Premier League's best-paid footballers but he is also responsible for managing Sterling's reputation.
After two hugely successful seasons with Liverpool and a breakthrough with England, that reputation should be unchallenged.
His reception at Liverpool's next home game, against Newcastle on April 13, will be an interesting one.