Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been pleasantly surprised by Raheem Sterling's performances in his breakthrough season at Anfield

The 17 year old made his first start for The Reds in the Europa League qualifier against Hearts in August and has flourished ever since, winning his first England cap against Sweden in mid-week.

Sterling had a front row seat in Stockhom, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four goals, including a memorable overhead kick, and Rodgers believes further exposure to the continent's finest players can assist in the winger's footballing education.

Raheem Sterling
Sterling has made 10 league starts for Liverpool this season.

"I have been surprised to be honest. You just never know with young players," said Rodgers.

"I think the biggest thing you can do with kids is give them a chance - so long as they are showing on a daily basis they are worthy of that opportunity.

"That has been the case with Raheem since the day I walked in.

"He has improved and that is a great credit to him because he wants to improve and become a better player.

"Tactically he is doing better all the time and I think everyone connected with Liverpool could be proud of his (England) performance.

"To get exposed to that level of experience, playing alongside guys like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic and seeing them at close-hand and how they operate can only make you a better player.

"He has earned that right to be there, he has been one of the top young players in the country this season; he is a real threat, he is dynamic but thankfully he has a lot to improve on.

"That will hopefully bode well for Liverpool first and foremost and internationally after that."

The academy graduate has gone from a potential future star, to very much the present for Liverpool, playing up front alongside Luis Suarez of late to help bolster the club's goal threat.

His increased first-team opportunities mean Sterling is close to sign a contract extension with improved terms, to co-inside with the England international turning 18 in early December.

"I think it will be pretty straightforward," added Rodgers. "That will be resolved. There won't be an issue there.

"I think Raheem himself, his representatives and his family know he is at the best club he could ever be at in terms of his development short and long-term."