Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling was wanted by Tottenham who weren't ready to pay up five years ago Getty Images

Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood has claimed Tottenham Hotspur wanted to sign Raheem Sterling before he joined Liverpool but were reluctant to pay up for the talented youngster.

Liverpool fended off competition from a number of other clubs to sign a then-15-year-old Sterling from Queens Park Rangers for a reported initial fee of £500,000.

But speaking ahead of Villa's FA Cup semi-final showdown with Brendan Rodgers's side on 19 April, Sherwood, who was working as assistant first-team coach at White Hart Lane when Sterling left QPR, has now revealed Spurs were also in the running to sign the starlet.

"He's [Sterling] a great talent, a good guy as well," Sherwood was quoted as saying by Talksport. "I have known him since he was a young boy. He's got a real winner's mentality and he is one we have to watch and show a lot of respect to [in Sunday's match].

"Everone knew about Raheem when he was at Queens Park Rangers and people made efforts to try and get him.

"Liverpool were the fortunate ones. I am not sure Tottenham wanted to send the money that was asked at the time, but I think he has possibly made the correct decision there because he has gone to a club with a manager who wants to give him an opportunity to play."

Sterling has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons in the build-up to the Wembley meeting after he was pictured inhaling nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas.

But Villa boss Sherwood attempted to play down the furore, joking to the press: "Let's hope Sterling isn't laughing on Sunday."

Sterling is almost certain to start, with captain Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel also set to return having each served their three match suspensions.

In order to keep the Reds out, Sherwood will look to veteran goalkeeper Shay Given, who has guarded the net in all of Villa's cup games this season.

"Shay plays, absolutely," Sherwood said. "He's done nothing wrong, Shay, he's a large part of the reason we're in this semi-final.

"The saves he made against Leicester were fantastic and at the right time. He trains fantastically well and he's pushing Brad all the way for that number one spot."