Once upon a time, Raheem Sterling was a guaranteed starter for England. However, there must now be questions about whether Sterling will realistically play for his national side ever again given that he was left out of the squad for recent games against Ukraine and Scotland.
Sterling played in the Qatar World Cup in 2022 despite not really showing his best form following his switch to Chelsea from Manchester City in the summer of that year. In the end, he scored just six goals in 26 games and provided three assists within his first year at Stamford Bridge.
A Better Start This Year
Despite a fairly lacklustre start to the new season under Mauricio Pochettino, Sterling’s early form has been relatively positive. Two goals against Luton seemed to be an indication of the 28-year-old’s new lease of life under the Argentinian, which should hopefully see him have a far greater impact this season. Chelsea may not be fancied to win, at least according to most Premier League betting markets, but if they’re to grab a Champions League place for next year, Sterling will need to be on top form.
Pochettino is building a new team as he attempts to remould the club, and owner Todd Boehly’s policy of putting players on long-term contracts is one that adds pressure to some newcomers. Sterling, of course, has been there and done it at the highest level and his experience will be a vital weapon in the manager’s armoury.
Can Sterling Get His England Place Back?
At 28 years old, Sterling is by no means past his peak, although he does seem to have been around for a long time. That said, it’s not age that seems to be against him but form. A year of below-par performances has pushed him down the pecking order in positions where England are blessed with talent.
While his form so far this campaign has been decent, he will no doubt need to continue this streak if he’s to be considered for future squads (including the Euros 2024 squad, if England qualifies). But it’s not just his own form that could impact his chances. If players who are given a chance for the Three Lions live up to the manager’s expectations, Raheem Sterling could find it difficult to force his way back into the reckoning.
Gareth Southgate clearly has an idea of what he wants to do with his squad and will already have one eye on the Euros. Though if those plans collapse either because of injuries, a drop in form or players being deemed ‘not ready’ for the step-up to international football, a player of Sterling’s ability and experience could prove invaluable going into the tournament.
Sterling was reported to have been angry that he was left out of the squad for the games in September. That’s a perfectly reasonable reaction. As a senior player, he should expect to be picked for England if he’s performing well.
Of course, he has no control over squad selection. All he can do is continue to perform well in the Premier League. Perhaps it seems premature to suggest his England career is over when he could easily have another 5-6 years at the top level. All we can do is wait and see whether Southgate gives Starling his well-deserved opportunity to shine as part of the Three Lions again.