Raheem Sterling has been rated above Neymar with former Chelsea and Marseille forward Tony Cascarino adamant the Manchester City star should be aiming to win the Ballon d’Or.
Sterling was instrumental during England’s 4-0 blanketing of Bulgaria, scoring one and assisting another as he took his sensational club form into the international arena.
Neymar meanwhile returned to action for Brazil following months out with an ankle injury and replicated Sterling’s feat in the 2-2 draw with Colombia.
Cascarino believes it is clear who is the better player, though.
“Try to ignore the antics that have gone on with Neymar off the field, I actually think Sterling’s better on the field,” he said (h/t Goal.com)
“His numbers are better and he’s playing in a better team. I’ve seen Neymar do things that no other footballer can do in the game, like a ‘Harlem Globetrotter’ footballer.
“But if you want a player to be brilliant for the team and score goals at the rate Neymar can, Sterling’s your man.”
Sterling has evolved into one of the finest wingers in world football under boss Pep Guardiola and he formed a key component of City’s historic domestic treble in 2018/19.
With Neymar spending much of his time at Paris Saint-Germain in the physio room, Sterling has been able to get ahead.
“I would definitely argue he’s in the top five players in the world,” added Cascarino.
“What excites me about Sterling is the improvement. The improvement has been dramatic.
“If you were to put him on the market tomorrow, Man City wouldn’t take £150 million for him.
“If he continues to improve, he’ll become the first or second [best player in the world] and probably win the Ballon d’Or along the way.
“If he wins the Champions League with Man City and plays a big part in that, and he scores a lot of goals over the course of the season, he’ll have a great chance of winning it [the Ballon d’Or].”
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez feels Romelu Lukaku will be unaffected by recent racist abuse.
And the Spaniard claims the striker arrived in the international camp a happier player because of his move from Manchester United to Inter Milan.
Lukaku is set to be unleashed on Scotland in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday night after being rested for his country’s 4-0 victory in San Marino.
The 26-year-old was subjected to taunts from a significant number of Cagliari fans a week ago and called for unity from players to tackle the problem.
Martinez, who managed the forward at Everton, said: “Romelu is one of those modern footballers, he was born with attention. He had the media following him around in Belgium since he was 16.
“He had the expectations of a team that had to win at Anderlecht with Champions League participation. Then he had a big transfer to Chelsea, had his time at West Brom, then handled big transfers to Everton, Manchester United and now Inter.
“Romelu doesn’t get affected. He is one of the most driven boys you can see. His life is football, he lives to score goals. So I haven’t seen a difference.
“It is true he was sad with the episode he had to go through but I’m sure that is something everyone in football will try to help him and hopefully people running football will eradicate it.”
Lukaku netted the winner at Cagliari and Martinez feels he is thriving again after a largely unhappy spell at Old Trafford.
“In the June camp I saw Romelu was free on the pitch and performed very well but he was quite concerned off it,” the former Everton boss said.
“This is the first time I have seen him happy going back many, many camps. He is so focused and refreshed by his new challenge.”
Scotland fell six points off second place after a 2-1 home defeat by Russia on Friday but Martinez believes Steve Clarke’s men are a team on the up.
“You have six players at least starting week in, week out in the Premier League, three of those are in the top six,” he said.
“This has the makings of a young generation with huge potential.
“Now the work is to get that competitive edge. Steve Clarke needs to have time, patience and opportunity to work at international level the way he works at club level.
“The talent in the Scotland team is there to qualify for a major tournament, no doubt about that.
“Scotland are probably one or two good results away from being a team that can qualify.”
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Gareth Southgate believes England’s frontline is as exciting as any other in the world.
World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane grabbed a hat-trick in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Bulgaria to move him past Stan Mortensen and Sir Geoff Hurst in the Three Lions’ all-time scoring ranks.
The England skipper not only has 25 goals from 40 international appearances but is complemented by the likes of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, with teenagers Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi knocking on Southgate’s door.
“I think that they’re as exciting as anything, really,” Southgate said of his attacking unit.
“I remember going to Spain and thinking ‘well, a really tough game, but actually you look at our front three and their front three on the night and I felt that we were strong’.
“And I’ve got to say, we’ve got Sancho and Hudson-Odoi who are going to push, and really push, so I think that it is exciting.
“You need to have players on the field to affect the games, but you need to have players that can come in and have an impact and I think we’re in a healthy position.”
Asked if the players are beginning to recognise they have the potential to be the best, Southgate said: “It’s an interesting comment. I think they have great humility.
“I think they possibly don’t, because they sometimes don’t view themselves as others do.
“We’ve also got to remember that as a coaching team. Very often you work with the team and it’s easy to find what they can’t do well.
“I think whenever we’re judging games, all of us look at what hasn’t gone well and sometimes we can overlook the brilliant things that they do, that maybe other countries don’t have.”
Southgate’s front three on Saturday worked well together thanks to their “balance of speed, intelligent movement”, unselfishness and work-rate.
Having an out-and-out goalscorer at the top is another big help, with 26-year-old Kane already well on the way to breaking Wayne Rooney’s all-time England scoring record of 53.
“I think it will just be about fitness and avoiding lengthy injuries – things that are out of your control – but I would think everything else is there to really challenge it,” Southgate said.
“The reality of that is that there’s a reason that only Bobby (Charlton) and Gary (Lineker) and Wayne have got there, because it’s such a hard challenge to stay fit, the number-one choice, focused, motivated for the long period that you need to be able to get the games and to get those goals.
“But if anybody has that strength of mentality, for sure it’s Harry.”
While the attack is becoming an increasingly exciting component, a midfield balance has yet to be achieved.
Southgate believes the change to a midfield three is helping to solve the issue of injecting creativity on top of a defensive platform, although there is no clear Luka Modric or Frenkie De Jong type of player.
There is, though, talent coming through. Mason Mount is looking to push on after his debut on Saturday, while James Maddison is hoping to win his first cap in Tuesday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo.
“There’s Phil Foden as well underneath that,” Southgate said.
“There are different profiles of players that come through our academies, and some that have been playing number 10 earlier in their careers, or wingers – Ox (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain), (Ross) Barkley – that are giving us different opportunities.
“We’ve got Ruben (Loftus-Cheek) as well who is out injured, so there are lots of options.
“We never have them all fit at the same time, so it’s quite an interesting… I mean I watched the Dutch, they never seem to change their bloody team. I don’t get it. They never have an injury. I don’t know how that happens.
“But, yes, we’ve got strength in depth and real competition, so I think we’re fascinated to see who’s going to progress and who’s going to nail those places down.”
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