Raheem Sterling scored a brilliant hat-trick as England kicked off their qualification for next summer’s European Championships with a resounding 5-0 win against the Czech Republic on Friday night.
Following a disappointing World Cup campaign, Sterling has bounced back in style this season to become a key man for both club and country.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the highs and lows in the career of the Manchester City forward.
Exit from Liverpool
By April 2015, Sterling’s contract talks with Liverpool had proven an unwanted sideshow. Sterling did little to ease the situation after he participated in an an ill-advised interview with the BBC which was not sanctioned by the club. It proved a PR disaster with Sterling insisting he did not reject Liverpool’s £100,000-a-week deal because he was a “money-grabbing 20-year-old”. Sterling courted criticism from a host of former Liverpool players before moving to Manchester City in a £49million deal three months later.
Disappointing World Cup
Despite featuring heavily for an England side that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, Sterling failed to hit the heights he had set during Manchester City’s Premier League-winning campaign. Sterling faced numerous calls to be axed from Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up but the England manager stood by the forward. Sterling however, failed to find the back of the net in a below-par tournament.
Suffering racial abuse at Chelsea
Earlier this season, Sterling was subjected to alleged racial abuse from Chelsea supporters during Manchester City’s Premier League visit to Stamford Bridge. Television footage appeared to capture the fan aiming a derogatory term at Sterling as he collected the ball in front of the home supporters.
Reaction to Chelsea abuse
The next day, Sterling issued an Instagram post responding to the events at Stamford Bridge. He accused newspapers of “fuelling racism and aggressive behaviour” in their portrayal of young black footballers. Sterling was widely applauded for speaking up on the subject. In January, he then wrote a letter to a young City fan who said he had been racially abused. “Stand tall [and] don’t let them take your courage,” said Sterling, who also sent a signed photograph. “Keep being you, kid”, he added.
Becoming a key man for Guardiola
Despite the wealth of star quality at Manchester City, Sterling has emerged as the go-to-guy for manager Pep Guardiola this season. With City still pursuing the quadruple, the 24-year-old has netted 19 times in an impressive campaign.
Bouncing back from the World Cup
Refusing to lie down after a disappointing summer, Sterling has bounced back with a string of match-winning displays for England. First, he scored a brace as England secured a 3-2 victory in Spain en route to the semi-finals of the Nations League before bagging a treble as the Three Lions opened their qualification campaign for Euro 2020 by hammering the Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday.