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Media Watch: Press hail star man Sterling

STERLING DISPLAY: Raheem Sterling bagged a hat-trick in England's 5-0 win over the Czech Republic

STERLING DISPLAY: Raheem Sterling bagged a hat-trick in England's 5-0 win over the Czech Republic

‘Adversity causes some to break; others to break records.’

Raheem Sterling’s critics were well and truly silenced on Friday night, as our dazzling forward hit a superb hat-trick to steer England to a 5-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic at Wembley Stadium.

The winger produced a mesmerising display, showcasing the attributes we savour week in, week out, to earn the Man of the Match award and issue a statement of his exceptional ability.

READ: Super Sterling hits first England treble

WATCH: Inside City | Episode 334

‘Perfect, brilliant, fantastic, outstanding, masterful, electric, unstoppable, devastating, the star man, a joy to watch, a national treasure…’

The press were running out of superlatives – and what pleasant and sweet reading it makes.

The Mirrors John Cross was particularly effusive in his praise, stating: “Now we should start calling him a national treasure, his status as England’s main man established on a glorious night at Wembley.

“Raheem Sterling scored a hat trick, his first in an England shirt to make it 24 goals in all competitions this season and when his name was read out as man of the match the whole stadium rose to its feet and cheered.

“We must now move away from the narrative that he does not get enough credit because he really does, everyone can see he is England’s best player right now and the driving force behind Manchester City’s title charge.

“Sterling was bright, unstoppable and full of goals. He was on a different level to every other player on the pitch and, after his second goal, he lifted up his shirt to reveal a T-shirt to pay tribute to a tragic young fan who passed away this week.

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“City star Sterling has become a unifying figure both on and off the pitch, a hero for modern times and one who has the ability to excite and entertain as well as being a wonderful role model.”

The Daily Mail’s Sami Mokbel echoed: “To think, Raheem Sterling hasn't even entered his peak yet. It is a frightening prospect, really, one that will have Gareth Southgate - and Pep Guardiola - rubbing their hands together.

“You almost forget he's 24, maybe because he's been playing senior football since 17. If he's this good now - what can we expect in the next four of five years?

“But we shouldn't cast our minds too far ahead. We should sit back, relax and enjoy the Raheem Sterling we have in front of us now.

“Because there's no better football player in England, if not Europe. Bursting with poise, invention and killer instinct, he was untouchable at Wembley.

“England's most complete attacking force, with the potential to become one of the best this country has ever produced if his career continues in the trajectory it's currently on.”

The forward earned top marks from the Daily Express in their player ratings piece – a ten out of ten, as Matt Penn purred: “A perfect performance from an in-form man. Sterling scored a brilliant hat-trick and won the penalty for England’s fourth before going off.”

Manager Gareth Southgate lauded Sterling’s leadership qualities, declaring: “He was electric all night. I saw what I've seen all week from him, so the level he hit didn't surprise me.

"He's in a really confident moment, not only on the field, but off the field he's so mature and comfortable in himself.

"So I'm delighted for him to get the reaction that he did from the crowd here. We can't hide from the fact that he's had difficult moments with England and he's turned that full circle.

"I also think the goals in Spain were an important moment for him. You could see the release that had brought.

"And his finishes there and tonight were finishes that he was just taking on without thinking too much.

"At times, you could almost see the thought process in the past, but he's hungry for those goals.

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"I know he's spoken about that before, of how he's added that incentive to his game and I thought he was devastating tonight.

"I've put him into the leadership group that we have. I think he's showing those signs, I think he's a role model for the younger players coming in.

"He's really focused on his training and his preparation and I think he's enjoyed that extra responsibility as well."

Robert O’Connor – also of the Mirror – highlighted an impressive stat in his reflection, explaining: “The Manchester City forward became the first England player to score hat-tricks for both club and country in the same month since Alan Shearer achieved the feat way back in 1999.

“Sterling scored three times for champions City against Watford earlier this month before putting the Czechs to the sword in the opening game of qualifying for the 2020 European Championships.

“Sterling has now scored five goals in his last three appearances for England having failed to net in his previous 27, and is on track to stake a claim to the PFA Player of the Year award come the end of the season.”

Former United man Wayne Rooney agreed, crediting Guardiola’s influence in Sterling’s development.

He told talkSPORT: “He’s been fantastic. You need to give Pep Guardiola a lot of credit.

“Raheem has always had the talent and the ability but one thing he’s improved on massively is his knowledge of the game and tactically he’s a lot better from working with Guardiola.

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“Raheem, to get his head down and work on that, is fantastic. I’m really pleased for him.

“He’ll be up for Player of the Year this season.”

That view is also shared by footballer-turned-pundit Robbie Savage, who wrote in his column for the Mirror: “Raheem Sterling would be my Player of the Season if I had to cast my vote today.

“It’s around this time of year that the Professional Footballers Association send out ballot papers for their members to pick their ‘Oscar’ winners and compile the best XI of opponents they have faced in the campaign.

“And for me, Sterling does not just deserve the gong as a driving force behind Manchester City’s pursuit of an incredible Quadruple.

“He has become one of the most effective players in world football. In all competitions for City this season, he has scored 19 goals and supplied 16 assists – an extraordinary individual contribution in a team so breathtaking to watch all over the park.

“The most difficult part in football is scoring goals – putting the ball in the net, from two yards or 30 – and making chances for others.

“Sterling has become a master of both crafts. He was already a rough diamond when he joined City from Liverpool, but under Pep Guardiola’s guidance he has improved year-on-year.”

Speaking to Sky Sports, Darren Bent added: “Today he was brilliant again, not just his goals but his general play, he was involved in everything good England did going forward, linked up really well with Kane and Sancho, and Southgate has a nice headache to have.”

Delighted for you, Raz!

In other news, the Morning Star celebrate the news of Georgia Stanway’s new City deal.

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Scribes Kadeem Simmonds: “Georgia Stanway will don the No 10 shirt next season after signing a new contract at Manchester City which will keep her at the club until 2022.

“Stanway joined the club in 2015 and has been spectacular ever since, playing a key role in the four trophies City have won in the period she has been at the club, two FA Cups, one League Cup and one Women’s Super League title.

“Stanway’s skillset has helped her thrive under the guidance of Nick Cushing, her pace and trickery continually proving too much for opposition defenders to handle.

“With 15 goals this season, the 20-year-old is a key member of the undefeated City side and has 35 goals in 88 games for the club.”

Elsewhere, rumours are circulating that City legend Pablo Zabaleta could make a welcome return to the Club in a coaching role – should he decide to retire at the end of the season.

Hammers News report: “West Ham signed Zabaleta on a two-year deal from Manchester City in summer 2017 and that is due to expire this summer.

“The 34-year-old is weighing up his future options but West Ham have spoken with him about a one-year extension.

“Over his two years with the Hammers, the ex-Argentina international has been a key figure on and off the pitch. But having recently lost his place to Ryan Fredericks, Zabaleta needs to consider whether to remain as a back-up for one more year or serve under Pep Guardiola as a coach.

“The opportunity to return to Man City – where he is loved – might be too hard for Zabaleta to resist.”

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