Raheem Sterling-Brendan Rodgers
Raheem Sterling is a crucial player for Liverpool manager Brendan RodgersGetty

Liverpool "should be eternally grateful" to ex-manager Rafa Benitez after he persuaded a young Raheem Sterling to swap London and Queens Park Rangers for a life playing for the Anfield club, according to reports in Spain.

At the time, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Fulham were reportedly battling to secure the services of the current Liverpool star, who was already considered one of the hottest properties in English football, despite only being 15.

Benitez's last seasons at Liverpool were probably not as successful in terms of silverware as his early stages at Anfield, when he won the Champions League in the 2004/05 season against AC Milan.

But in February 2010, the Reds outbid other suitors for Sterling's signature after Benitez agreed to pay an initial fee of £500,000 to QPR – with extra add-ons payments linked to his development and appearances at Anfield.

Spanish newspaper Marca has revealed how Benitez, the current Napoli boss, persuaded Sterling to snub other offers and move to the Merseyside.

According to Marca, former Liverpool scout Frank McParland introduced Sterling to the Spanish manager and after watching him in action. Benitez did not hesitate to take a gamble on him and decided to be involved personally in his recruitment.

Not only did Benitez offer him a tempting deal, the then Liverpool manager also impressed Sterling by him driving to Anfield in in his own car.

After showing him the club facilities, Benitez "still had one last surprise ready" for the young Sterling and introduced him to captain Steven Gerrard and former Anfield hero Fernando Torres.

"Sterling shook their hands, looked to his mother and from that moment, he was a 'Red' for life," Marca said.

The 19-year-old midfielder made his senior debut at Liverpool as a substitute in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic in 2012, becoming the second-youngest player ever to play for the club, at the age of 17 years and 107 days.

Since then, Sterling has flourished in the Liverpool side. Brendan Rodgers gave him an important role during the second part of the last campaign, Sterling earned a place in England's World Cup squad and he has become into one of the leaders of the team this season following Luis Suarez's departure.