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Opinion: Raheem Sterling - the best is yet to come

Fresh from signing his new three-year contract extension with Manchester City, the good news for Raheem Sterling is that the best is yet to come.

A dazzling, dizzying talent, Sterling has reached new heights with City this season and, at just 23 years of age, he is still improving.

As Blues manager Pep Guardiola attested earlier this month: “Raheem is a top player, he can play on both sides, through the middle - but he is so young. He is an incredible, winning player but still he can improve.”

As Guardiola attests, it is perhaps easy to forget that for all his experience, Sterling won’t celebrate his 24th birthday until next month.

Even before making the move to City in the summer of 2015, Raheem had already accrued a wealth of experience, having made his senior first team debut with Liverpool at the age of just 17.

READ: Raheem Sterling signs Manchester City contract extension

WATCH: Raheem Sterling 2023 |  City TV interview

England were also quick to recognise his enormous potential, with Sterling being handed his Three Lions bow 23 days before his 18th birthday against Sweden in 2012. 

Such has been his impact ever since, earlier this month, Raheem chalked up his 200th Premier League appearance, a remarkable tally given his age, but one that also hints at the phenomenal levels of Sterling’s fitness and staying power.

However, the most exciting aspect of Sterling’s impressive career development is that he has yet to reach his peak potential.

But he’s in the perfect environment to achieve that great leap forward.

One of the many factors that help make Guardiola arguably the finest coach in world football is his incredible capacity to make great players even better.

It was one of the hallmarks of his stewardship at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich and, if anything, it is a trait the Catalan has further refined at the Etihad. David Silva and Sergio Aguero are prime examples of Pep’s coaching alchemy but Sterling’s rapid progression under Guardiola has, arguably, been even more marked.

DONE DEAL: Sterling has signed a new deal

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Sterling 2023: CityTV interview

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After starting his Etihad career under Manuel Pellegrini, Sterling began to blossom under Pep’s tutelage following his appointment in the summer of 2016.

That development really took flight in his second season under Pep, as Sterling finished our record-breaking Premier League with a career-best tally of 18 league goals, along with 11 assists.

After a draining summer at the World Cup finals where he proved a key component in England’s march to the semi-finals, there were fears whether fatigue could stymie his progress once City’s domestic campaign.

Any fears were extinguished in our opening Premier League assignment away at Arsenal where Sterling got City’s title defence up and running with a stunning opening goal in our hugely impressive 2-0.

Indeed, with the first three months of the campaign behind us, it’s now clear that Sterling has kicked on yet again and is now displaying both the maturity and consistency that are the hallmarks of true elite.

READ: Raheem Sterling | The stats that show he is getting better and better

WATCH: City 6-1 Southampton | Raheem Sterling reaction

In the same way that Kevin De Bruyne became City’s go-to man last term, Sterling has picked up the baton this time round, emerging as the Blues’ talisman.

He has already registered seven goals in all competitions this term, together with seven assists, and has regularly wreaked havoc by slaloming through bewildered opposition defences.

Another crucial but overlooked trait is his courage.

Not only does Sterling possess the bravery to receive the ball in even the most constricted of spaces, he also demonstrates his fearlessness in withstanding the physical attentions of over-zealous defenders’ game in, game out.

Pep offered an intriguing insight into the secrets behind Sterling’s progression in the wake of our 6-1 thrashing of Southampton where, not for the first time this season, he produced a man-of-the-match display.

INSIGHT: My first derby.

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City squad reflect on their first career derby

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Asked to articulate the secret behind Sterling’s maturity and progress, Pep revealed how he and his fellow coaches had urged him to become more fearless in his approach.

Guardiola said: “The first season, the ball arrived in front of the box and he was scared, he was looking, who am I going to pass the ball (to)? That was our feeling.

“He was not looking where the keeper was, it was his team-mate. We spoke about that and said ‘Try to score goals. It doesn’t matter if you miss, be aggressive.’

“Now I have the feeling he is enjoying scoring goals and making assists and being important in winning players.

“He is becoming a winning player. We cannot forget he is just 23. He is stable and is focused on what he has to do to become a better player. If he has the drive to become a better player, he can reach whatever he wants.”

Given Sterling’s new contract extension, that will be music to the ears of every City fan.

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