sterling rahim he has not been selected for England’s last squad for matches against Italy and Ukraine, but only because Gareth Southgate had no choice.
“Raheem is not fit,” the England manager said ahead of the first Euro 2024 qualifiers. “I would have selected him if he was.” It was a firm response from Southgate to questions that Sterling might no longer be a favorite for international call-ups.
In the same position, Mark Rashford and Bukayo Saka they are living their best seasons as professionals, Jack Grealish He is a regular of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Phil Foden he is back in shape. In the midst of all that, Southgate still wanted to cast Sterling. That is likely to be the case again when Southgate chooses his next England team for Euro qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia in June.
Now 28 years old and more than 10 years after his senior debut, it’s easy to forget what Sterling has accomplished. He is close to 500 club games and has surpassed 150 goals. He has won 10 trophies, including four Premier League titles, and has capped England 82 times.
After making his England debut aged 17, he is one of only two players chosen for the World Cups in 2014, 2018 and 2022 along with jordan henderson. It will only be 31 when the next one begins in the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026.
Sources close to the England camp believe Sterling has been key in turning the tide for the national team under Southgate. After reaching two tournament semi-finals in the next 50 years after winning the World Cup in 1966, England under Southgate reached the World Cup quarter-final in Russia in 2018 and the European Championship final in 2021. Southgate credits its leadership group of seasoned internationals, of which Sterling is one, for helping to change the atmosphere and morale in the camps.
Club loyalties, a major issue for England managers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, have been sidelined, while Sterling in particular has advocated for emerging young talent, and has also strived to make sure debutantes feel at home when they walk. in the park of St. George. Crucially, players have wanted to show up.
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Southgate, according to sources, assigned Sterling to a key role in the dressing room when he took over as England manager in 2016, having been impressed with his leadership during his spell with the under-21 team. When Southgate was deliberating his future after their World Cup quarter-final knockout by France in December, Sterling was one of the main players he consulted.
There is still a feeling among many of the coaches and managers who have worked with Sterling that he is still underappreciated. He has played for three of the biggest clubs in English soccer in Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea. When he moved between the Etihad Stadium and Stamford Bridge in the summer, there was great interest from some of the best clubs in Europe, including Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
Sterling joined Chelsea after Thomas Tuchel made the striker his top priority, and in transfer meetings with new owner Todd Boehly, the German manager noted that a player like Sterling would have made the difference in a series of close finals: the 2021 League Cup, the 2022 League Cup and the 2022 FA Cup, all of which Chelsea lost.
In five seasons between 2017 and 2022, Sterling scored 78 Premier League goals in 161 appearances, a rate of almost a goal every other game, as Manchester City won the title four times. It’s not helped, however, by the feeling that Sterling’s form during City’s dominance of the division was underrated given that he was only named in the PFA’s team of the year once, at the end of the 2018-19 campaign. . The following season he reached 20 goals in the Premier League and 31 in all competitions.
Sterling is still finding his place at Chelsea, having joined the club in a state of flux. Tuchel was sacked in September and replaced by Graham Potter, who tried several different systems in an effort to deal with a long list of injuries and unprecedented player turnover. Sterling, by himself, has been asked to play six different positions.
There is an acceptance at Stamford Bridge that some stability beyond this season will help, although when Potter and Chelsea needed a goal to convert in the Champions League round of 16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund, it was not an surprise that it came from Sterling. Wayne Rooney is the only Englishman to score more than his 27 goals in the Champions League.
“Raheem came into a new team that lost some key players over the summer, brought in some new ones and then changed the manager,” Potter said in December. “It is my responsibility to help the team function better so that he can play better, because he has quality and he is a top player.”
It’s a view shared by Guardiola and Tuchel, two of the best managers in the world, and also by Southgate as he begins his preparations for another shot at a major tournament at the Euros in Germany in 2024. Injury has denied Sterling the chance. be there at the start of the campaign, but if Southgate has his way, he’ll be there at the end of the deal.