Sterling breaks into discussion of world’s best players after European hat-trick

Raheem Sterling has broken into the discussion of the world’s best players after scoring his first Champions League hat-trick on Tuesday.

The Manchester City forward struck three times in 11 minutes in the 5-1 win over Atalanta, leading manager Pep Guardiola to label him “an extraordinary player”.

Ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand told BT Sport Sterling is “in the top five players in the world now”, while he was announced on Monday among the 30 shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the statistics that have vaulted Sterling into the discussion.

Manchester City

Raheem Sterling's season-by-season goal record for Manchester City
Sterling has improved markedly in recent seasons under Pep Guardiola (PA Graphic)

Twelve goals in 11 Manchester City games this season have Sterling comfortably on course for a third successive 20-goal season for the club, and possibly far more.

After joining the club in 2015, he scored 11 goals in his first season and then 10 in his first playing under Guardiola, whose influence on the England forward then became clear for all to see.

Having spent a year under the Spaniard’s tutelage, Sterling blossomed to score 23 goals in all competitions in 2017-18 and 25 last campaign despite rarely playing as an out-and-out striker.

A record better than a goal a game this time around surely points towards an even higher tally once more.

He also had double figures for Premier League assists in both of City’s title-winning seasons under Guardiola and – though he has just one in eight league games this season – he created both of Sergio Aguero’s goals against Atalanta.

England

Raheem Sterling celebrates a goal against Montenegro by cupping his ears to spectators who had racially abused England's black players
Sterling’s influence has grown on and off the field with England (Nick Potts/PA)

Sterling’s blossoming over the last two seasons is even more apparent with England than at club level.

Indeed, in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to date, he has been perhaps the Three Lions’ key man with eight goals in six games, sparked by a hat-trick against the Czech Republic in March.

The campaign has seen him triple his international goal tally, having scored only four in his 47 caps prior to the start of qualifying.

While it is not a part of the statistical discussion, the international arena is also where Sterling’s impressive off-field work has been seen in its best light as he stood up to racist abuse in both Montenegro and Bulgaria.

Partly in recognition of that, he was handed the opportunity to captain his country for the first time in June’s Nations League semi-final against Holland.