Evolution is something to be applauded. Growth in any endeavour is what we all aspire to. In football, growth is more or less improving on a weakness, or enhancing a strength. Jamaican born star, Raheem Shaquille Sterling, has done both this season and it’s a fantastic sight to behold for anyone from both the land of wood and water or the land of Angles.

Quantifying his rapid ascension from a young prodigy who needed to work on the finer points, such as utilising his innate gifts of speed and dribbling to greater effect by making the right decision in the final third more often, and holding his head up to pick a pass after beating a man, is easy. The numbers support this. The former starlet who blossomed under then Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, then stuttered in his first two seasons at Manchester City mainly for those reasons outlined, has matured to become one of the most prolific attacking players in England.

“If he would be a guy with a little bit more sense of the goal he would be one of the most incredible players.” – Pep Guardiola

Simply Raheem Sterling
It’s night and day for the Man City forward. Source: Statsbomb via Opta

Pep Talk

The path of special talents is largely determined by their own willingness to make the transition to stardom. That fact is undeniable as we’ve seen many who are proclaimed ‘next Ronaldo’, ‘next Pele’, ‘next Messi’, and ‘next Maradona’ fizzle out in spectacularly drab fashion. However, the role of mentorship is just as important. Whether in the form of someone who has excelled in a similar role or someone who has mastered the art of teaching that same role, a career guide who understands what might keep a player from making the transition is worth his/her weight in gold.

“He is young, still can improve but he made a big gap.”

“He is winning games, now hes’ a winning player. – Pep Guardiola

For Sterling, Josep Guardiola may just be that man. He may have enjoyed a similar trajectory under Rodgers who gave him his opportunity and allowed him to flourish alongside perhaps the most devastating strike partnership in Premier League history, comprising of Luis Suárez and a prime Daniel Sturridge. It was not to be after SAS, and SSS disbanded (and fought the injury bug), and Raheem’s move to star was delayed as a result. The frustrations many have had with Luis Nani, for example, who fell head over heels in love with cutting in from the right onto his left to shoot, often ignoring others in a red shirt, were beginning to surface with Sterling. It wasn’t the same, but we’ve all been disappointed with at least one talent not making good on their promise. Sterling was good, but needed that little bit more to steer clear of falling victim to the English stereotype of being overhyped and overpaid. A big money (at the time) move to the blue half of Manchester only served to heighten those preconceptions.

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“We are in November, he has already broken the record so that is top. But not just in terms of goals, he is now strong, keeping the ball – before he would lose a lot of balls, now he is keeping the situation much much better, one against one, to provoke fouls.

“I am impressed but still he’s 22 years old, still he can a lot of things improve. If he wants to learn, we will be there to help him.” – Pep Guardiola

Eccentric as he is, even his more passionate detractors have to agree that his passion for coaching and mentoring is almost unrivalled in modern football. That’s what makes him one of the very best, much like at least two of his biggest rivals in England. His attention to detail and meticulous study of the game, his ability to convey his message to his troops, and his desire to not only be great, but to build empires and leave a lasting mark has translated to his players.

The magic of David ‘Merlin’ Silva has been rekindled, Kevin de Bruyne has put to rest any doubts as to his place amongst the world-class players in football, Sergio Agüero is still prolific as ever, Gabriel Jesus is carving out his own place alongside Sterling, and so on and so on. Pep’s detractors (rightly) had a field day before he was able to leave his imprint on this Man City team and all the criticisms of him seemed to be justified in their minds. It’s not a finished article as the final pages haven’t been written and edited, but the process is a joy to behold and scary at the same time.

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How good they can be is what the football world will watch and observe in coming years. It means little without tangible evidence, and delivering on this will determine the success of his latest project.

Precisely

Precision in coaching has translated to precision in play. Raheem is deserving of every accolade he gets as long as he doesn’t get comfortable, continues to work just as hard on his craft and displays humility in his triumphs and his failures.

Check the statistics. Raheem Sterling is on fire, not hot.

Raheem Sterling: Money stats comparison

Stat (per 90 mins)2016/172017/18
Goals Scored0.250.95
Assists0.210.24
Key Passes1.431.42
Chances Created 1.651.66
Total Shots2.293.09
Dribbling Success Rate (%)57.2459.38
Where Sterling has developed most is in taking his chances. Shots have increased, but it's expected in a City team creating more. An almost four fold increase in goals scored is nothing to scoff at and would be the envy of most strikers, let alone attacking mids/wingers/inside forwards.

 

Half of the story hasn’t even been told, and it’s good that Sterling has begun to rule his destiny and is becoming the player he promised to be. That’s down to his mentors around him and the player himself. Simply Sterling.

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