Raheem Sterling: An English Superstar at Euro 2020

Raheem Sterling
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There’s no debate about it – Raheem Sterling has been the best player for England at Euro 2020. The Manchester City man has been a credit to his team every game and fully deserves the praise he is getting.

Often vilified by the press and the fans before the tournament, this year he has commanded respect. He has left the naysayers eating their words like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

He isn’t a perfect player – but now, in Gareth Southgate’s system, his strengths are on full display. Southgate has found a way to get the best out of him, arguably more so than Pep Guardiola ever has. For that, England’s manager deserves credit.

But what makes Sterling so good? How has he managed to quell his critics and prove himself as a true English superstar? Let’s take a look.

Raheem Sterling at Euro 2020

The Key to Sterling’s Success

Sterling’s talent is buoyed by one key element of his game – his movement off the ball. When coupled with his speed, dribbling ability and understated strength, you have a seriously dangerous player on your hands. Defending against him must be nightmarish.

His ability to be in the right place at the right time is genuinely freakish. He may not always get the finish right, but the amount of chances he gets makes this negligible. If he misses one, it doesn’t matter so much – the likelihood is he’ll get another.

People do criticise him for his profligacy, but everyone misses chances. No footballer has a 100 per cent record of shots to goals. And if they do, they’re lucky.

As previously mentioned, Southgate has successfully devised a plan to play to Sterling’s best attributes. Sterling isn’t a brilliant provider – he’s much better when capping off a move. He almost operates like a wide poacher for England when the Three Lions are in possession.

Meanwhile, Harry Kane tends to roam from his position. This works well because Kane is an adroit passer of the ball and possesses excellent vision. He wasn’t the top assist maker in the Premier League last season for no reason.

To call Sterling a poacher would be unfair, as this implies he doesn’t do much running. He absolutely does – he will always offer a passing option on whatever flank he is currently occupying.

Southgate’s fluid attacking system allows him to drift centrally, where he can be the focal point of an attack.

Performances by Sterling at Euro 2020

Raheem Sterling and England had a great start to the tournament against Croatia. England played some excellent football, capped off with a clever run by Sterling to score the only goal of the game.

After a tough game against Scotland, England recuperated for their next match against the Czech Republic. This was a dominant display by the Three Lions and once again, it was Sterling scoring the winner. Kane looked to be playing injured – he was mostly inactive. Sterling, however, stepped up to the mark.

In the last 16, England squared off against Germany. This was one of Sterling’s weaker performances, as he was up against one of the world’s best full-backs in Joshua Kimmich. He lost possession late on, leading to a German counter-attack, but his blushes were spared when Thomas Muller fluffed his effort wide.

He had to battle hard for a chance, but when it came in the 75th minute, he took it. Kane followed this up with a winner, sending the England faithful into raptures.

In the quarter-final, England faced a dilapidated Ukraine side. Sterling didn’t score, but Ukraine couldn’t get near him. He played a sublime ball to Kane for England’s first goal, then remained professional throughout the game.

Finally, Sterling was again was key for England against a fired-up Denmark outfit. Though he was tackled frequently and squandered a great chance, he made the run to help create England’s first goal. If not for Simon Kjaer putting it in his own net, Sterling would’ve done so.

The scores were excruciatingly level until extra time. Here, Sterling made a run into the box, where he was clipped by a Denmark defender. Contact was minimal, but it was deemed just enough for an England penalty. Kane converted, eventually, and England had reached their first European final in history.

Is Raheem Sterling One of England’s Best Ever Players?

In this tournament, he’s certainly shown his worth. However, because the game has changed so much, it’s difficult to compare him to players of old. In terms of what they achieved for England however, there aren’t many that can be held in higher regard than Sterling.

Does it need to be said? England have only ever reached the final of a major tournament on one other occasion – in 1966. Since then, England have failed to replicate this euphoria. Euro 2020 has been England’s best tournament for over 50 years, and Sterling has been the main spearhead. In some ways, this is all that needs to be said.

In terms of pure ability, he isn’t quite in the same ballpark as Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves or Paul Gascoigne. But purely for what he has achieved in an England shirt? He’s a three lions legend, for sure.

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