By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Raheem Sterling is close to signing a new five-year Liverpool contract early in the new year, Goal.com understands.
The Merseyside club are nearing an agreement with the 18-year-old on a heavily incentivised deal, which is expected to start at a basic £30,000-a-week with staggered pay rises every year.
Negotiations have centred on the top-up bonuses for appearances, goals and Champions League qualification but both parties are confident that Sterling will shortly put pen to paper.
Manchester United have been among the clubs keen to take advantage of the teenager’s contract stand-off should the situation not be resolved.
However, recent negotiations between Liverpool and Sterling’s camp have been fruitful, which should result in the player, whose current deal expires in 18 months, committing to the club up until 2018.
The youngster’s representatives had been irritated by manager Brendan Rodgers’ comment that the winger would be “very foolish” not to agree fresh terms with a club whom he joined from QPR at 14 and where he has been fast-tracked into the first team.
Rodgers has made no attempt to hide his belief that Sterling’s career needs to be carefully managed to maintain his hunger and keep his feet on the ground.
“You see young players who are multi-millionaires,” said the Reds boss. “No matter what you say, it takes the edge off them.”
Nevertheless, the newly capped England international has been a fundamental figure in Rodgers’ team this season, starting 16 of the club’s 17 league matches and playing 1,411 minutes.
Speaking in the wake of Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa last weekend, the manager admitted that Sterling and newcomer Joe Allen both needed a rest to recapture top form.
“There is no doubt Raheem is one who does need that breather,” Rodgers observed. “I’ve thought about it over the past couple of weeks. In order to do that you need to have that depth to take him out and put somebody else in.”