So it’s now official, Raheem Sterling is a good player! All it took was two goals in a semi-competitive international game to silence the critics.
Despite being involved in forty-seven goals for Manchester City since the start of 2017-18 and being part of one of the greatest attacking teams in the Premier League, there were still those who dismissed his ability.
His critics are unlikely to be permanently silenced by an excellent brace against Spain. However, it does appear that the penny may have finally dropped for some when it comes to Raheem Sterling’s continuing rise.
It should be obvious to most that the Premier League and Champions League are the showcase tournaments to exhibit your genuine talents. However, for some, the World Cup and International scene remain the zenith and only barometer for greatness.
For evidence of this sluggish thinking, you only need to glance at the comments that are dragged out about Lionel Messi. Despite four Champions League wins and five Balon D’or awards, there are some who simply shrug and point to a lack of World Cup success as final judgment on one of greatest players of all time.
Now Sterling is nowhere near the class of Messi, few ever have or ever will be, but he is maturing into a top class attacking player. At twenty-three he is right where he needs to be. A first team regular and tutorship under Pep Guardiola have seen the former Liverpool man hit another level over the past eighteen months.
However, people still criticise and sneer at a poor international record. They have a point about a fairly flat World Cup performance. However, is it even right to be judging him on his record against some pretty mediocre opposition? The right stage to judge him on is the domestic front and there can be no argument about his qualities there.
A record of four goals in forty-six caps is far from a good enough return for an attacking player. But it must be remembered that twenty of those caps were won before Sterling had even turn Twenty-one. He was a young lad still learning and developing.
Sterling is not a natural striker or finisher and this has likely contributed to a blunt return for his Country. In fact, his goal scoring had plateaued for a few years, with the wide man, averaging about ten goals a season between and 2013 and 2017.
It was during this spell when his prominent habit of collapsing like a jigsaw when he got into the box was at its peak. There were never any question marks about his quick feet, skill and frightening pace. However, his finishing was very poor and he often failed to cap off a well worked move.
Despite the often vocal criticism that came his way, Sterling has clearly got his head down. Working with one of the best coaching set ups in world football is likely to have paid off as well. Although, immense credit is due to Sterling for having the right attitude, listening to his coaches and exploding on to the next level.
His recent form has been nothing short of world class for City, and he’s still only twenty-three. There is every chance that he could go on to become even better.
City’s richness in depth also means his game time can be effectively managed and they avoid burning him out. This is often an overlooked component in the modern game, but players like Sterling simply cannot play at that pace and be effective for sixty to seventy games a season. The fact he is not the only top class player and can look to others around him to share the load is a positive that shouldn’t be overlooked.
It could well be the year we see Sterling hit the heights he has shown flashes of, for his entire career. As he continues to impress and carry on this form, the goals for his country will surely become more regular. If that happens, his strange and oddly devoted critics will have no choice but to remain silent about their favourite whipping boy.