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The Anfield boss has hailed the teenage winger and, after a drop-off in form at the end of last season, believes the youngster is back to his best and ready to improve further

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says Raheem Sterling is a much better player now than he was last year and believes he can play a big role for the Reds this coming season.

The 18-year-old became a first-team regular at Anfield last term but, partly through injury, faded in the second half of the campaign.

However, Rodgers believes Sterling is full of confidence after an "outstanding" performance in the club's pre-season friendly win over Indonesia and has backed the youngster to become a big success on Merseyside.

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"It was a year ago when I came into the club and he came away with us on pre-season as a reserve/youth-team player and his enthusiasm, quality and tenacity really hit me," Rodgers told the club's official website.

"He ended up starting the season after the West Brom game and for the first six months, he was sensational. He ended up getting a full England cap, which shows you the impact he made at 17 years of age. He went on to make over 30 appearances.

"Towards the end of the season, there was a natural drop-off purely because of the youthfulness of him and also because of the pressure of playing for Liverpool and at the very top end of the game.

"I took him out of that, he had a little injury at the end of the season as well, but I wanted to protect him and make sure he doesn't have too many miles on the clock too early.

"He's come back refreshed, he did work over the course of pre-season and was back and forward from his holidays into Melwood preparing himself well.

"He's now re-joined the group and I've got to say, I thought he was outstanding the other night.

"He looks so fit, he looks sharp, he looks better than what he was last summer when I came in, and I think he'll play a big part for us again this season.

"At 18 years of age, he has so much potential. If we nurture that well and he can retain his focus and mentality, he can be a big talent for Liverpool. I've been pleased with what I've seen from him so far."

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