In a clear show of intent, Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling has asked to be dropped from the club's pre-season tour of Australia and Asia, as his move to Manchester City looms.
After City had two recent offers turned down by Liverpool, Sterling reportedly informed manager Brendan Rodgers that he feels it would be better if he does not travel with the squad to Thailand on Sunday, according to several British newspapers.
The England winger also made it clear to the Liverpool boss that he is determined to quit Anfield despite the club having strengthened the team with six new players already in the close season, a stance that will be viewed as the 20-year-old's desire to join City this summer.
Liverpool have promised Sterling they will not stand in his way if they receive an offer in excess of £50 million (S$104 million) from his suitors. As yet, City have refused to meet that valuation with their two bids, coming in the space of six days, of £30 million and £40 million, both of which were rejected.
Among Sterling's reasons for seeking to be left out of the tour - which also features visits to Brisbane, Adelaide and Malaysia - is the attention that his presence would provoke. Liverpool's position is that as long as he remains contracted to the club, Sterling, who scored seven goals in 34 English Premier League games last season, must continue to represent the club as directed by Rodgers.
Liverpool have been preparing for Sterling's probable departure by signing Brazil international forward Roberto Firmino for £29 million from German Bundesliga side Hoffenheim.
Rodgers has also added James Milner, Danny Ings, Adam Bogdan, Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne to his squad.
Reds defender Martin Skrtel believes the upcoming pre-season tour will provide the perfect opportunity for the recruits to bed in.
"We'll be away for almost two weeks and spend some time together, so we can know them better and they can know us better," he told the club website on Tuesday.
"It's always good for building team spirit and it's the perfect time for them to come into the team.
"It's always nice to see new players in the team because they can strengthen us and that's very important. We met the guys this morning - they're nice lads and I believe they can help us."
Skrtel has twice featured for the Reds at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, having taken part in the pre-season tours of 2009 and 2013. The Slovakian is looking forward to returning to what is sure to be a packed-out ground for the meeting with the Thai All Stars next Tuesday.
"I've been there a few times and every time we've been there, we've had a nice reception," he continued. "I hope this time it's going to be the same and that's why I'm looking forward to it."
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