Fabian Delph believes Raheem Sterling has become one of the best players in the world at Manchester City.
The midfielder has hailed his club and international team-mate ahead of Thursday’s Nations League semi-final with Holland in Guimaraes.
The pair are with England after winning the domestic treble with City, with Sterling scoring 25 goals and winning the PFA Young Player of the Year.
Delph joined City three days after Sterling moved from Liverpool in a deal worth up to £49million in 2015 and the former Aston Villa captain has seen his development first hand.
“He’s an amazing young man, people forget he’s only 24. When we both signed he was 19 (sic) and he looked like a little baby,” said Delph, who has won two Premier League titles with Sterling.
“When he came to City he had three seasons under his belt and he’s not that young in football terms but he’s always had the mindset he will be one of the best players in the world.
“For the last four or five years he’s never questioned himself and I’ve never questioned him.
“People always question what type of player he’d be and whether he’d go to the next level but I was like ‘this kid has everything. Once he finds his path and what works for him you’re going to see something incredible’.
“I believe he’s operating at about 80 per cent so if he can push himself a little more – which he will because his mindset is very good – the sky’s the limit.
“I’m speaking from knowing Raheem since he was 19 and seeing his progression. Right now he’s one of the best players in the world.”
Sterling will win his 50th England cap should he play, as expected, against Holland and Delph feels his colleague deserves to reach 100 caps.
“Yeah, I hope so, and there’s a lot of young guys in the squad who could go on to get 100-plus caps, not just Raheem,” said Delph, who has 18 caps.
“But from knowing him and what his mindset is like, I’m pretty sure that he’s got that in the back of his mind that he wants to go and break that record or head towards it.”
Delph, 29, retained his spot in the England squad despite starting just one Premier League game since Christmas.
He added: “It’s frustrating for anyone who doesn’t get as much time as they want. I’m quite experienced now, I’m very level-headed and my main focus was to help my team-mates.
“I always talk about being a team player, I’m a really good team player and I had the lads’ back all the way through.
“It’s always such a big deal for me to be selected for my country. Over the last 18 months we have been doing really well.”
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France manager Didier Deschamps said his side’s 2-0 friendly win over Bolivia was “good preparation” for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Turkey and Andorra.
Thomas Lemar opened the scoring for the home side at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on five minutes, with Antoine Griezmann getting his 29th international goal just before half-time.
But an injury suffered by Kylian Mbappe, a week before the trip to Turkey, took some of the shine off the win.
The Paris St Germain forward had to go off at half-time with an ankle problem.
Speaking after the match on fff.fr, Deschamps said it was good to get a positive result before heading to Turkey, who are joint top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group.
He said: “It was good preparation. I could largely do what I had wanted to do.
“I have no regrets, even if we did not show enough efficiency in the second half given all our chances.”
The hosts took an early lead when Griezmann found Lemar on the left-hand side of the penalty area and the Atletico Madrid winger took a touch before lifting the ball over advancing Bolivia keeper Carlos Lampe.
It was Lemar’s fourth goal for France, all of which have come on home turf with his left foot.
It was predictably one-way traffic in the first half and Lampe did well to cling on to Mbappe’s driven cross, with Griezmann waiting to pounce.
Lampe did even better to claw away a Griezmann header from Lucas Digne’s cross, colliding with the near post as he did so.
Lampe could not hold out until half-time, though, as Griezmann struck in the 43rd minute.
Lemar’s neat touch kept his own cleared corner in play on the byline and when Bolivia failed to deal with his second cross, Griezmann spun onto the loose ball and drilled it home.
Bolivia fashioned the odd chance too, with Leonel Justiniano forcing France keeper Alphonse Areola into a save low to his left from a free-kick and then heading Alejandro Chumacero’s cross wide.
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England’s John Stones is ready for a picture perfect moment as he targets victory in the Nations League.
The defender believes England are on the brink of a special breakthrough ahead of Thursday’s Nations League semi-final with Holland in Portugal.
After being teased by Manchester City team-mate David Silva with photos of the trophies he has won with Spain, Stones now wants his own snaps to show the midfielder.
“David is always making fun of me and he’ll send me a picture of the three things he’s won (with Spain), the World Cup and two European Championships (saying) ‘This might be you one day,'” said Stones.
“But that’s something that he’s so proud of, and I don’t want to say that I can’t imagine it. I couldn’t imagine it happening years ago but now we’re so close to something special.
“I can’t imagine what the scenes will be like if we do it, and touch wood, we do it. Because it would be something special for all of us.”
The defender could start for the Three Lions after losing his place in the City side this year.
Stones started just eight Premier League games in 2019 and only three of Ctiy’s final 10 matches as they took the title ahead of Liverpool by a point.
The 25-year-old was also only a late substitute in the 6-0 FA Cup final victory over Watford last month.
But he insists he understands the need to put the team first at the Etihad.
He said: “I felt in previous seasons, especially when I was younger from 19 to 21 maybe, I would have focused too much on ‘What am I doing? Why aren’t I?’ and not thinking about the greater good of the team.
“That’s what everyone did this season and I think that’s why we pulled through in every competition except the Champions League.
“I’m massively proud of what I did. Because if you think back now, you remember the end of the season.
“For football fans in general, they remember us winning things, the big games. They don’t remember the first half of the season, maybe to the start of January, the new year.
“That’s where I believe every bit of hard work, every game we’ve won is setting you up for that second half of the season. I was a massive part of that. That’s why it’s such a team game.
“I realise my role is something bigger than playing, sometimes.”
Victory in Portugal would cap another medal-laden season for Stones following the domestic treble with City.
England are 12 months on from last summer’s World Cup semi-final exit where the national team restored the bond with their fans and the media, with Stones eager to keep progressing.
He added: “It is exciting, because last summer seems so far away now.
“We did everything we could so that when we went out there we knew we were ready for any scenario.
“We need to deliver again now and that’s the expectation that we have put on ourselves. And there is huge potential with the younger guys.”
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