London – Liverpool are confident they are close to persuading teenage winger Raheem Sterling to sign a new, long-term contract but have been rebuffed in their attempts to tie down a second young England star in Martin Kelly.
Representatives for Sterling, who turned 18 last weekend, held fresh talks with club chief executive Ian Ayre last week to try to thrash out a deal. The two sides were a long way apart in earlier negotiations.
Sources believe Liverpool are close to agreeing terms with the forward, who made his England debut against Sweden last month, and have promised big performance-related incentives to take him close to other regular first-teamers on around £50,000 a week.
With Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United waiting in the wings, Liverpool are confident a deal with Sterling is imminent. Manager Brendan Rodgers stated after Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat by Aston Villa: “I am not bothered by speculation about Raheem and other clubs. That situation (Sterling’s contract) will be resolved soon, I’m sure.”
But it is less good news for the club regarding Kelly, a member of England’s Euro 2012 squad, who has turned down an offer worth £35,000 a week in wages and appearance money and is now awaiting the club’s reaction before making his next move.
The versatile defender who, like Sterling, has 18 months left on his present deal, is recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Manchester United in September.
He forced his way into Roy Hodgson’s squad in the summer after impressing on his England debut against Norway in May. – Mail On Sunday