By Merseyside correspondent Cam Downes
Arsenal and Chelsea have learned that Raheem Sterling wants to return to London as he prepares to tell Liverpool that he intends to quit Anfield this summer, Football Insider sources understand.
The two capital clubs are closely monitoring Sterling’s situation as the rift between the England star and the Merseysiders intensifies.
Football Insider revealed last week that Sterling is on the radar of Arsenal despite the controversies that have surrounded him in recent months, while Chelsea also have a genuine interest in the 20-year-old.
This could be a significant factor in Sterling’s future given that, as revealed by Football Insider last month, he has told friends he wants to return to the capital.
The Jamaica-born winger was raised in Wembley and came through the youth system at QPR before joining Liverpool as a 15-year-old.
His situation is also being monitored by Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It was being suggested on Monday night that Sterling feels he is being “bullied” by Liverpool into agreeing a new deal and that the club have not protected him from negative publicity.
Aidy Ward, Sterling’s agent, is planning to meet the Merseyside club’s chief executive Ian Ayre ahead of the final Premier League against Stoke City on Sunday.
The latest face-to-face discussion has been initiated by Ward, who brought a halt to discussions earlier this year to enable Sterling to concentrate on trying to help his club qualify for European competition.
It is believed Ward will reiterate Sterling’s unwillingness to sign a new deal and create a deeper wedge between player and club to facilitate his transfer. Liverpool hoped a period of reflection would lead to the 20-year-old committing to the £100,000-a-week offer made several months ago, but that now looks extremely unlikely.
However, it will not be easy for them to wrestle him out of Anfield. Sterling still has two years remaining on a £35,000-a-week deal, with club owners Fenway Sports Group making it clear they are not prepared to sell to a rival this summer.
It has been suggested that Arsenal’s interest has cooled following Sterling’s now infamous BBC interview without Liverpool’s permission and the fact he has been caught smoking shisha and inhaling nitrous oxide.
However, Football Insider has learned the FA Cup holders are not having second thoughts over their interest in the youngster.
Sterling stunned Liverpool by giving an interview last month in which he claimed he is not motivated by money in stalling over a lucrative contract and admitting he is “quite flattered” at being linked with Arsenal.
Wenger is not expected to sign an orthodox striker this summer but he is in the market for a ‘special’ young forward who can play in any of the three attacking roles behind a front man.
The likes of Sterling and Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus are on Arsenal’s radar, although they are set to miss out on Palermo’s Paulo Dybala, who is on the verge of signing for Juventus.