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Sterling can be the best in the world, says City team-mate Gundogan

Ilkay Gundogan believes Raheem Sterling is well on course to becoming the best player in the world.

Germany midfielder Gundogan praised his Manchester City team-mate after he scored the crucial breakthrough goal in the champions’ 3-0 Premier League win over Aston Villa on Saturday.

After a frustrating first half at the Etihad Stadium, Sterling netted in the first minute of the second period to set up an ultimately comfortable victory.

Gundogan was also on target against Villa

Gundogan was also on target against Villa (Martin Rickett/PA)

It was the England forward’s 17th goal in 18 appearances for club and country this season and came after an 11-minute hat-trick against Italian side Atalanta in midweek.

Gundogan, who also got on the scoresheet, said: “He is among the five best attacking players in the world, definitely.

“Just now it’s about consistency, but he has shown in the last 12 to 18 months that he is able to be that consistent. If he can continue like that, he can be on the top. At the moment there are no limits for him.”

Gabriel Jesus should have added another for City soon after Sterling’s strike but was denied by a brilliant goal-line clearance from Tyrone Mings.

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The second eventually came in the 65th minute and was anything but clear-cut. After a long VAR stoppage, Kevin De Bruyne’s free-kick was ruled to have curled straight in despite an apparent touch from Silva.

Had Silva been deemed to have touched it at this point, the goal may well have been disallowed because Sterling was in an offside position and interfering with the goalkeeper.

After the game, however, it was a different matter. The goal accreditation panel – a separate entity from VAR – concluded that Silva did get a touch and duly credited him with the goal.

There was little debate about the third as Gundogan smashed home and Jesus went close again when he hit the crossbar late on.

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Gundogan said: “We could have scored in the first half but (we were) not clinical enough and maybe a bit slow and sloppy.

“We responded well in the second half and it was a good win. Sometimes it’s about patience. That’s a different quality, being able to wait for the right moment and not lose your nerve.”

The only downside for City was the late sending off of Fernandinho for a second yellow card. The Brazilian midfielder had been playing in defence recently as cover for injuries and Gundogan does not fancy that role during his suspension.

“Not really, to be honest!” he said. “It’s a position I don’t feel really comfortable with but if needed it’s a position I will play.”

Despite the result, Villa acquitted themselves well and felt there was plenty to take from the defeat.

Manager Dean Smith said: “We’ll take an awful lot of lessons from the way they play – the way they press you, they’ve got great compactness, great cohesion, they use the space behind you really well.

“We’ll take that video home, watch how Man City do things and try to learn from that good practice.”