Raheem Sterling has now scored eight goals in his last eight appearances for England, and he put in a stunning display as they beat Kosovo 5-3 in an enthralling EURO 2020 qualifier in Southampton on Tuesday.
Sterling, 24, scored one and added three assists in the first half as his blistering pace ripped Kosovo to shreds and his newfound confidence in front of goal has been clear for all to see in the Premier League.
So far this season he’s scored eight goals in seven games for club and country, but many still believe he can improve his finishing and passing around the penalty box.
The improvement with his decision-making on the final pass or ball has been sensational since Pep Guardiola arrived as City’s manager and his current England boss Gareth Southgate believes he is now virtually unplayable.
“Our attacking play from Raheem, Jadon [Sancho] and Harry [Kane] was outstanding. Raheem’s two performances have been of the highest level,” Southgate said. “I think he’s been almost unstoppable, his awareness of where defenders were, his ability to ride challenges, his vision and desire to get in on goal, and unselfish play as well, so I couldn’t speak highly enough of the way he played.”
Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes also lavished praise on Sterling, saying he is now among the best players on the planet.
“It is impossible to play against him,” Challandes said. “I know Sterling in the past was very speedy but the last choice or shot was not good. Now he is incredible. He has learned a lot from Guardiola and is one of the best players in the world now.”
6 – Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling have combined for six goals since Gareth Southgate took charge of England; at least three times as many as any other duo in this period. Synergy. pic.twitter.com/ccfNT6RayC
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 10, 2019
Aside from all of the wonderful things he is doing off the pitch, where does Sterling rank among the best wingers in the world right now?
In his position he is in the top five, there’s no doubt about that. Which other wingers have his output combined with the pace and power that frighten the life out of opposition defenders?
Kylian Mbappe is obviously the top man, but he often plays centrally for PSG and France, while Sterling’s teammates at City, Bernando Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane, are also in the conversation. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are the main contenders to be crowned the top wide players on the planet, and Jadon Sancho, Sterling’s England teammate is a star in the making at the age of 19.
Sterling set up Sancho for his first two England goals on Tuesday and the duo support Kane superbly in attack for England. Sterling’s improved goal tally is important, but his understanding of the game under Guardiola, especially when it comes to when to make his runs forward, are perhaps his biggest improvement.
He is the main man for England right now. There is no doubt about that. And the fact he is only 24 and already has 53 caps to his name is frightening.
Sterling’s form for Man City has been consistently excellent, as he has scored 48 goals in 97 appearances in all competitions over the past two seasons.
That incredible return means Sterling has cemented himself into the conversation as being the best winger on the planet.