Gary Neville has backed Manchester City star forward Raheem Sterling to lead England to Euro 2020 glory against Italy in the grand final.
Despite enduring a topsy-turvy season at the Etihad, Sterling has been absolutely instrumental to England’s imperious run to a first European Championship final.
The 26-year-old scored both England’s goals in the group stage and continued to reel off a string of eye-catching performances in the knock-outs.
After breaking the deadlock in a keenly-contested 2-0 last-16 victory against fierce rivals Germany, he delivered an assist for Harry Kane’s opener in a 4-0 demolition of Ukraine in the quarter-finals.
Despite failing to impact the scoresheet in a 2-1 extra-time success against Denmark last time out, the pacey winger was crucial to England’s triumph at Wembley.
Simon Kjaer’s unfortunate own goal denied what would be Sterling’s fourth strike at Euro 2020 before the Englishman drew a decisive extra-time penalty.
The ex-Liverpool star will have to bring his A-game to the table on Sunday if the Three Lions are to overcome Italy’s rock-solid backline in a highly-anticipated final.
And while everyone expects Kane to make a difference at Wembley, former Manchester United defender Gary Neville believes Sterling could tip the scale in England’s favor.
“Luke Shaw has been outstanding and Kyle Walker has been absolutely brilliant. Kalvin Phillips, amazing in central midfield,” he told Sky Sports.
“But you’d have to say now with what Raheem Sterling did last night. He definitely jumps in front of those if he wasn’t there before. He was too good for them (Denmark).
“And somehow on Sunday, we have got to find a way to draw Chiellini and Bonucci out so that we can get Sterling in that space in and around them. He has got to be the key because those two Italian defenders are absolutely brilliant.
“They will half fancy Kane in terms of the physicality element of it and Harry isn’t the quickest. So Harry will have to be clever on Sunday. Sterling, I’m sure, if he can just draw one or two of those defenders out, and get them out of their position by four or five yards… we saw the goal that Spain scored where Chiellini was drawn out by a one-two.
“I think Sterling will be absolutely key on Sunday.”