Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has downplayed comparisons between Jordan Ibe and Raheem Sterling, as the 19-year-old prepares to make his long-awaited return to the Reds first team.
After being recalled from his season-long loan spell at Derby County, Ibe has made seven appearances for the Merseysiders this term before a knee injury curtailed his campaign.
Ibe is fit to return to the Liverpool squad for the 13 April visit of Newcastle United and comes at a time when the club are hoping to reignite their challenge to qualify for the Champions League with seven games left.
The return of the England Under-20 international comes amid wild speculation regarding Raheem Sterling's future at Liverpool, which comes after the player rejected a new contract worth £100,000-a-week.
Players on different paths
Comparisons have been drawn between Sterling and Ibe, who share birthdays a year apart, given their style of play and emergence into the Liverpool first team at a young age but Rodgers has quashed any suggestion the two players are similar – extinguishing indications he could replace the England international should he leave the club.
"They're both very exciting, but they're different types of players," Rodgers said prior to the Premier League game against Newcastle in which Ibe is expected to return. "And of course their pathways are different.
"I put Raheem in at 17, and he's stayed in the team and gone on to do very well. With Jordon it was slightly different. It was about looking really closely at him to see where his development was going to be best suited.
"It took him out of the club for a couple of loan periods (at Derby and Birmingham), but we've got the benefit of that now, and he's got the benefits of playing under pressure. Now he's come back, and since he's been back, he's been great."