Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre has dropped the strongest hint yet that the club are confident of keeping contract rebel Raheem Sterling after admitting he is optimistic the player will remain at Anfield "for a long time".
The 20-year-old has rejected a deal worth £100,000 a week and will resume discussions over a new deal at the end of the season.
Sterling has been linked with moves to Arsenal and Real Madrid but admits his Liverpool career hinges on his ability to compete for silverware on a regular basis.
And Ayre has confirmed talks over an extension to a deal that expires in 2017 will be delayed until the summer but the Liverpool chief says he expects Sterling to agree new terms.
"Raheem's agent has asked that we park all discussions regards his future until the summer," Ayre is understood to have told Sky Sports News. "We respect that. Raheem is a Liverpool player and has over two years left on his contract. We expect Raheem Sterling to be here for a long time."
Speculation regarding Sterling's future at Liverpool comes as the player's off-the-field behaviour continues to be scrutinised.
The England international has twice been pictured with a shisha pipe while he made front-page news when a video arose of Sterling inhaling laughing gas and later collapsing.
Manager Brendan Rodgers says the incident will be dealt with internally but it is not expected to lead to Sterling being dropped for the upcoming FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa at Wembley.
After Sterling scored his 11<sup>th goal of the season in the 2-0 win over Newcastle United on 13 April, midfielder Joe Allen said. "People forget sometimes that Raheem is only 20 years old. It's frightening how good he is.
"He always focuses on his football. He's someone who will continue to get better and better. Performances like that are what he's all about. Goalscoring is something he's getting better at all the time, credit to him. His rise during my three seasons here has been incredible.
"I remember his first start in the Man City game [in 2012] when he was thrown in. It was pretty clear then that he was special and since then he's gone on to prove that."