England coach Roy Hodgson believes Raheem Sterling could go on to win 100 England caps after admiting he’s been impressed by the forward’s start to life at Manchester City.
After a tumultuous summer, Sterling seems to be discovering his best form and is expected to make his first England start of the season on Tuesday when the Three Lions host Switzerland at Wembley.
Just like his club career, Sterling’s progression on the international stage has been rather stop-start.
After being given his first England cap aged 17, Sterling had to wait another two years to represent his country at senior level again.
The £49million Manchester City winger was one of few England players to impress at the World Cup, but his form dipped as his relationship with Liverpool deteriorated last year and Hodgson said he did not start the winger against Estonia last October because he was tired.
But with a troubled summer now behind him, he has the chance to join an exclusive 100-cap club that currently contains just 10 players.
“His first games for City have been good,” the England manager said of Sterling, who currently has 16 caps to his name.
“I didn’t play him in San Marino to give others a chance, but he’s ready to go tomorrow and we’re hoping he brings his City form with him.
“It’s a big year for him. He’ll have a lot of big years: France in 2016, Russia in 2018, 2020 all over Europe, and (Qatar) 2022.
“At his age, he has plenty more to look forward to. I’m sure that one day he’ll be looking forward to sitting here alongside me with over 100 caps.”
Hodgson gave an early indication of his faith in Sterling last summer when he handed the then 19-year-old his first England start in the World Cup opener against Italy.
The forward immediately got the England fans on their feet with a powerful drive that rippled the side-netting in Manaus.
Soon after he returned from Brazil, Sterling’s form dipped and he looked nothing like the player who had been such a force for Liverpool in their unlikely title push the previous season.
Sterling and Liverpool came to blows over a new contract towards the end of the campaign and there was an acrimonious split between the two parties earlier this summer when City swooped.
Wayne Rooney feels the player has now found contentment at City, however.
“You can see he’s settled. He’s happy, I’m sure,” the England captain said.
“He’s got the move he wanted. He’s started the season excellently.
“When you are going through what he did, trying to leave Liverpool, it can be quite difficult. But he’s a lot more relaxed and settled, which is good for us.”
It is clear that Hodgson is placing Sterling at the centre of his plans for Euro 2016.
The England boss has been happy with the way Sterling has settled in at the Etihad Stadium, and he still thinks there is more to come from the Londoner.
“We have the same aim for him as he has for himself and his club manager – assists and goals from that wide forward position,” Hodgson added.
“It’ll always come down to that. I’ve liked his assists and the fact he’s scored a goal early this season.
“We don’t want him to lose that incredible work rate and tenacity he has, winning the ball back when he loses it. But the next step, this year he’ll be hoping to have more assists and goals at the end of the season.”