Despite a brilliant start to the season at Stamford Bridge, the 28-year-old faces an uphill battle to rescue his international career.
Raheem Sterling has established himself as one of the best players of his generation since making his England debut as a 17-year-old in 2012. He burst onto the limelight at Liverpool before becoming a global celebrity at Manchester City, and he was the first name on Gareth Southgate’s squad sheet for a long time.
Sterling has scored 20 goals and provided 27 assists for England in 82 appearances, with 22 of those coming at major competitions. He was very effective during his country’s journey to the Euro 2020 final, scoring against Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Germany before playing the entire 120-minute loss to Italy.
Sterling was an automatic selection for the World Cup in Qatar despite a tough start to life at Chelsea following his £47.5 million ($58m) transfer from the Etihad Stadium in July 2022. His club form had been uneven in his final two years at City, but Southgate had always backed his star forward and had faith in him to produce on the international stage.
That has all altered in recent years, with Sterling still expected to play for England in 2023. Southgate left the Chelsea star out of the squad for the fourth time in a row ahead of the forthcoming matches against Australia and Italy, raising serious doubts about his future.
Sterling has every right to be angry. He has been one of the Premier League’s star players in the first few months of the 2023-24 season and deserves to be back in the England picture.
The Three Lions are on the verge of qualifying for next summer’s European Championship and will require a full-strength squad to compete in Germany. Sterling missing the plane would be a tragedy, but it is a very real possibility right now, with Southgate’s perplexing selection decisions threatening to wreck England’s latest drive for trophy…
‘Prove the management wrong.’
Sterling only scored nine goals in all competitions in his debut season at Chelsea, who finished last in the Premier League for the first time under the new Todd Boehly ownership regime.
almost the last year, the Blues have spent almost £1 billion ($1.2 billion) on new players, including Mykhailo Mudryk, Noni Madueke, Nicolas Jackson, Christopher Nkunku, and Cole Palmer. Instead of receding further into the background following Mauricio Pochettino’s hiring as manager, Sterling has knuckled down to reclaim his peak form.
Kane is likely the only player to have done more for England than Sterling during Southgate’s reign, which is why he was regarded as untouchable for so long. However, his reputation as one of England manager Gareth Southgate’s ‘favourites’ has been rescinded. Sterling could not be doing more to rekindle his international career, while a handful of other players continue to be selected despite languishing at club level.
Harry Maguire has slipped far down Manchester United’s defensive pecking order, but he remains a mainstay in Southgate’s England backline. Jordan Henderson, who is now playing in Saudi Arabia and appears to be past his prime at 33, is also a fixture, as is Manchester City exile Kalvin Phillips.
These guys were not selected for the England squad on merit, which establishes a troubling trend. Sterling may continue to flourish for Chelsea as the season unfolds, but it will not guarantee his return to the England squad.
“It baffles me (why Sterling isn’t in England’s squad).” He has his ups and downs, but when he plays well, he’s the X-factor,” former Three Lions midfielder Paul Merson told Sky Sports. “You need someone out of the ordinary to win World Cups and European Championships.”
“If they all play their best in a one-off game, he will have an impact on the game.” He has it more than anyone else. He scores goals and moves quickly. Of course, he has his off days, but how he isn’t in England’s squad baffles me.”
Merson is completely correct, and Southgate’s lack of “X-factor” may be exactly what stops him from concluding his career with some genuine success.