Manchester City continued their unbeaten domestic run with a routine 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday afternoon, with Raheem Sterling taking the plaudits for another standout performance.
Sterling has divided opinion throughout his career but even his harshest of critics would struggle to build a credible argument against his quality right now. His form at Manchester City has gone from strength to strength under Pep Guardiola and there’s no doubt he has become an integral component of his well-oiled machine.
Finishing chances has been Sterling’s most blatant weakness in his career thus far, but he added his 4th goal of the new season against Brighton with a poachers finish following a teasing ball from Leroy Sane across the face of goal.
A brilliant one-two with Sergio Aguero saw him lay the ball on a silver platter for the Argentine to gobble up a killer second goal to quash any glimmer of a potential comeback for the travelling side, and in the aftermath of proceedings Garth Crooks was gushing over the quality of his performance.
Sterling was selected in Crook’s weekly team of the week selection as produced by the BBC, and he included an anecdote to emphasise his admiration: ‘I told my son two seasons ago that I thought Raheem Sterling had the ability to compete with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo for the mantle of best player in the world’.
Although Crooks implied that Hazard is closer to claiming that mantle than Sterling at this moment in time, he stated that a marked improvement at international level would allow him to become the world’s best: ‘If Sterling can do for England what Ronaldo has done for Portugal, then hey presto… the mantle is his.’
Crooks has been typically sensationalist and outlandish with his assessment on Sterling’s development. After all, he is bound to face much greater challenges that Brighton this season and it would be foolish to put him in the same bracket as Hazard after he twice netted against Liverpool last week.
But the message from Crooks is clear and valid: Sterling needs to reciprocate his form at club level on the international stage if he wants to become one of the world’s best.
Naturally, that will be no easy task. City boast an array of the most gifted attacking players in world football who allow Sterling a greater level of freedom than he enjoys for England, and with years of victimisation in the British media to carry into international fixtures it’s no wonder he lacks the clinical edge he consistently demonstrates for City.
Crooks is certainly right to suggest Sterling’s international form is preventing him from entering an elite bracket of footballers, but until there is an overall improvement throughout the England squad he will struggle to emulate his club form for the Three Lions.
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