Barcelona legend, Xavi Hernandez, has backed Manchester City forward, Raheem Sterling, to succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s best player.
Sterling has grown from a talented youngster into a superstar, since Pep Guardiola took charge at the Etihad Stadium.
In City’s record-breaking Premier League title-winning campaigns in 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the England international was arguably the club’s most important player, scoring 35 goals and providing 21 assists in 67 appearances.
He has scored five goals in five league appearances so far this season. He was also in top form for the Three Lions during the September FIFA window.
Xavi, who played for the La Liga champions almost throughout his career, said though Messi and Ronaldo remain the reference points in world football, the former Liverpool player can step into their shoes when their playing career comes to an end.
“Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the best player in the world awards for so many years now, it’s hard to remember a time before them. Messi is the best-ever for me, and even though they’re both still playing at a very high level, there will come the day not so long away when somebody else must step into those shoes,” he told BleacheReport.
“You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Mohamed] Salah, and of course Sterling. I look at the moment—and Sterling is winning that race. He’s always been a good player, a dangerous player, but under Pep he [has] become one of the best in the world.
“I know how Pep works, he would have worked closely with him since his arrival—where he needs to improve and what he needed to work on. We’re now seeing the results of that—he’s still young and can be the world’s best.”
But the Manchester club have not been able to replicate last season’s form this campaign. They are already five points behind leaders, Liverpool, in this campaign, after their shock 3-2 defeat to Norwich City last Saturday.
One title Sterling has not been able to help City win is the UEFA Champions League, in which got knocked out in the quarter-finals last season by finalists, Tottenham Hotspur.
They will kick off their 2019/20 campaign in the competition on Wednesday against Shakhtar Donesk in Group C.