Opinion: Raheem Sterling has come of age and Gareth Southgate must take note
Raheem Sterling's performance against Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday was indicative of the confidence he has in himself and how he can repay the faith shown by his manager Pep Guardiola. In Manchester City's 6-1 win over the team from the south coast of England, Sterling scored two goals and provided as many assists. Video replays showed that he also had the last touch before David Silva's goal, but strangely that assist was awarded to Leroy Sane.
Sterling had an overall dominating performance and Pep Guardiola must be proud of his ward. He played him on the wing, relegating last week's goalscorer Riyad Mahrez to the bench and Sterling did not let him down. He added pace with guile and gave Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane ample support in the attacking third.
Signed from Liverpool in the summer of 2015 for almost 64 million Pounds, Sterling was the next big thing back then. However, that potential had gone largely untapped until Guardiola arrived at the Etihad. Sterling's growth is thanks largely to the faith and belief shown by the Spaniard in him. He has thrived in the atmosphere that has been created and scored goals aplenty.
On Sunday, City started proceedings in the sixth minute itself when a Leroy Sane shot was diverted by Saints' defender Wesley Hoedt into his own net. Minutes later, Sergio Aguero notched up his 150th Premier League goal and the gala was truly on its way. After David Silva had put one at the back of the net via a stunning volley, Sterling decided to go on a rampage and net two himself right after halftime.
The speed on display and the wit he showed while tackling one defender after another was cruel. Southampton's defenders were in no position to stop this Blue onslaught and Sterling seemed to have terrorised them. In the end, centre-halves Wesley Hoedt and Jack Stephens were begging for mercy.
This performance by Raheem Sterling needs to be appreciated by Gareth Southgate, who was in attendance at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. It needs to be seen how Southgate nurtures Sterling's promise. He has a lot to offer to England and given the right atmosphere, he can do as well for them as he does for City.
Raheem Sterling can surely become an England great and it is up to Gareth Southgate now to recognise his potential.