Belfast Telegraph

Raheem Sterling thanks Brendan Rodgers for making him a star

By Sam Wallace

Raheem Sterling left Liverpool yesterday at the end of one of the most poisonous transfer sagas in recent times with a final conciliatory gesture - thanking Brendan Rodgers for helping to develop his career.

It was irreconcilable differences with the Liverpool manager that were cited as one of the key reasons why Sterling wished to leave this summer, which he finally did in a £49million deal to Manchester City that makes him the most expensive English footballer of all time.

In his first interview since the transfer, with the City website, Sterling also thanked his agent Aidy Ward, underlining his close relationship with the man who has at times found himself at the centre of the story over the last few months.

Sterling (20) will fly to Australia today to join up with his new team-mates. Negotiations were concluded amicably between City and Liverpool, who have maintained a working relationship despite the friction between Sterling and Ward on one side and his former club on the other.

City have always been the favourites to sign the player once it became clear that he would not agree another deal at Anfield, and their willingness to get to the asking price relatively swiftly meant that Liverpool felt they could justify the transfer.

Sterling's move will earn his former club Queen's Park Rangers around £9m, although he never made a senior appearance for them.

He said: "It has been a long journey from QPR and I'd like to thank a few people who have helped me along the way. I'd like to thank Rafa Benitez for taking me to Liverpool as a 15-year-old.

"That was a massive step for me and a new challenge. Also to Kenny Dalglish for showing such faith in me and putting me in at such a young age.

"Finally, I'd like to thank Brendan Rodgers for giving me a chance and an opportunity in the first team, giving me my full (League) debut - against City, funnily enough - and giving me a real chance to cement a place in the first team and show the world my talents."

Sterling has signed a five-year contract on a salary of around £200,000 a week.

Described in April 2014 by Rodgers as the "best young player in European football", Sterling has been unequivocal over the last six months about his desire to play for a club he believes is challenging for the biggest honours.

With Manuel Pellegrini into the last year of his City contract, the likelihood is that Sterling will be playing under Pep Guardiola next season.

The Spaniard is the leading candidate - arguably the only candidate - in the mind of director of football Txiki Begiristain to take over.

On his record fee, Sterling, who will wear the number seven shirt at City, said he will take it in his stride. The young England star was described by Pellegrini as "one of the best attacking players in world football".

The player himself said it was City's "world-class players" who convinced him to sign, adding that City have "a squad that are capable of winning things year in, year out."

Meanwhile, minus Sterling, Rodgers was content to see Liverpool win their first pre-season game 4-0 against Thai All Stars in Bangkok, fielding two different line-ups in each half.

Lazar Markovic, Mamadou Sakho, Adam Lallana and Divock Origi scored to secure the 'True Super Trophy' in humid and then monsoon conditions.

Belfast Telegraph

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