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Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has challenged Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling to follow in the footsteps of Premier League greats like Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry.
Sterling has enjoyed the best season of his career so far in 2017-18, helping City to the Premier League title with a haul of 17 goals. Under manager Pep Guardiola, the England international has taken his game on to new heights.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football show, Neville looked at Sterling’s development and said if he improves his finishing, he could accomplish even more.
“The two best players that I can think of in the Premier League in the past 20 years who have gone from dynamic wide players to prolific goalscorers are Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry. …
“Where is Sterling going to go now? That’s the challenge that Guardiola is laying down because you can see where the other lads went.
“If you think about those players and then what they went on to become, where everything was so controlled. The authority and technique in the final third was never in doubt. That was a result of incredible hard work and progression year on year.
“Can he get to the Henry and Ronaldo level? That’s debatable because they are two of the greatest players, but that is the challenge.
“Pep Guardiola has said that he is looking for him to become one of the best players in the world. To get to that world’s best level he has to change something that he is doing now.“
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As we can see here courtesy of the programme’s official Twitter account, it was at this point in the career of Ronaldo and Henry that they took their goalscoring up another gear:
Sky Sports MNF @SkySportsMNF
Can Raheem Sterling match Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo for goals?
Gary Neville has challenged the England international to go to the next level… 👉 https://t.co/8sAHKDvtXs https://t.co/O1TMC0AaUc
Neville’s assessment of Sterling came after Guardiola spoke about the player following the 3-1 win for City at Tottenham Hotspur.
While the former Liverpool man was on the scoresheet in that victory, his manager noted the number of opportunities he missed in the match. “If he is able to increase in front of goal, scoring goals, then he will become one of the best players in the world,” said the City boss.
Although finishing is something that comes naturally to a lot of the world’s finest attacking players, as Neville noted, some of the greats of the game work hard at this particular skill.
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Sterling, for all the progress he has made this season, never appears totally at ease when he does find himself in goalscoring positions. Often he tries to take an extra touch before overcomplicating the situation, while he’s also prone to snatching at opportunities. A happy medium is needed.
In the recent Manchester derby, Sterling had a number of opportunities to put City out of sight in the first period before United recovered and won 3-2.
Statistician Paul Carr summed up his poor day in front of goal in that fixture:
Paul Carr @PaulCarrTM
Expected goals for the Manchester Derby:
– City: 3.24 xG on 20 shots (Sterling 1.15 xG on 4 shots)
– United: 1.24 xG on 5 shots
There’s been so much good about the forward’s game this season, though, and the fact that he has been on the scoresheet 17 times shows he has made some improvements in terms of sticking the ball away.
Sterling’s movement, utilisation of possession and work rate have all come on under Guardiola. With that in mind, you wouldn’t back against the 23-year-old going on to be even better for the champions next season and to make major strides in terms of sticking the ball in the net.