Raheem Sterling
Sterling scored 10 goals last season but will be expected to continue his development this termGetty Images/Clint Hughes

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has compared Raheem Sterling's rapid improvement to that of Barcelona's four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi.

Sterling enjoyed his breakthrough campaign at Anfield last season, operating alongside Luis Suarez to inspire the Reds to finish within two points of champions Manchester City.

But without Suarez – and with Liverpool stalling in recruiting a replacement – Rodgers is looking for one of his current squad to take on the responsibility of spearheading a renewed title charge this term.

And following an impressive pre-season which came after a chastening World Cup with England, Rodgers believes Sterling is producing displays which remind him of Messi.

"Something we said to Raheem when he first broke into the team and something we've reiterated is that you have to have an identity as a player," he told the Liverpool Echo.

"His identity is he has to score goals and create goals. That's what the job is. He scored 10 goals last year and this kid is only going to get better.

"When you look at the finish against Manchester City in New York, how many times have we seen Messi produce a touch like that? Taking it through bodies when it's so tight in the box.

"Raheem's feet were so soft and his finish was great, as was the one which was disallowed for offside just after.

"The great thing with watching him now is that he gets you off your seat. When he gets the ball you think 'something could happen here'."

Though Liverpool have signed the Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana in an attempt to make up for the departure of Suarez, the likes of Sterling and Daniel Sturridge will be required to continue their good form from the last campaign.

While Rodgers is encouraged by the 19-year-old, the manager is excited by Sterling's capacity to improve ahead of the start of the new Premier League campaign this weekend.

"There is still work for him to do, but he knows that and is a really good boy who is developing," the Liverpool boss added.

"When you're so young, it's important to understand exactly what your role is. Not just look good, you have to be efficient and effective.

"His development has gone to a new level. He's way above the level from when he first came in both tactically and technically.

"And what has been beautiful to watch with Raheem has been his maturity. He's turning into a beautiful young man.

"He's taking it all in his stride and now he's in a good place with every part of his game. It's just about maintaining that commitment to his work. He's still only 19, but in big games he's performed and he's a wonderful talent."