GARETH SOUTHGATE says rising star Jadon Sancho has a perfect role model in Raheem Sterling.
The Manchester City star is only 24 but his 47 caps make him England’s second most experienced player in Southgate’s squad — one behind Jordan Henderson.
And the Three Lions boss is thrilled at how Sterling is maturing, on and off the pitch.
Southgate, 48, said: “It’s phenomenal to be his age and already on that many caps.
“If his performances continue as they have with his club this year then that future is extremely bright.
“He’s continuing to improve, and you would hope that would happen given his age, but a lot of attacking players maybe peak really young and then don’t improve.
“He’s falling into that category of player who isn’t satisfied with where he’s at.
Sterling is the second most capped player in Southgate’s England squad[/caption]
“He wants to keep getting better, he’s got the drive to be better.”
Sterling has hit 19 goals for City already this season and is on target to cruise past his best tally of 23 during last season’s title-winning campaign.
And his two in England’s 3-2 Nations League win in Spain last year hinted he might finally be ready to add some goals to everything else he contributes to the national team.
Sterling hit a hat-trick against Watford last week on the back of scoring the final penalty in the Carabao Cup final shootout against Chelsea last month.
Southgate added: “What stood out for me was the penalty in the final having missed one in an earlier round.
“That’s a big moment. That wasn’t an instinctive finish where there’s no time to think — there was a lot of time to think.
Southgate purred over Sterling’s penalty against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final[/caption]
“The game in Spain was an important one for him because two goals in a really big fixture on a top stage against top players will only improve his confidence.
“He was a fundamental part of us getting to a semi-final.
“In terms of how we saw him, he was always in our first-choice team and we thought he had a huge contribution to the team. And that’s why we kept on playing him.
“The only bit that was missing were goals — which came in the autumn, which was great.”
This season, Sterling has taken on another role: as an eloquent spokesman in the battle against racism in football and society.
Southgate said: “That is a sign of a maturing person.
Southgate believes Sterling has shown the maturity that makes him the perfect role model[/caption]
“I know he doesn’t always feel comfortable being the central story. He’d want the football to be what he is judged on, although he is putting himself in that position and should be commended for the impact he’s having in other areas.
“I want to get that balance right for him because I know how he likes it to be and first and foremost he’s an outstanding player who’s having a fantastic season.
“But that maturity and ability to affect bigger things is clearly becoming increasingly important for him.”
On the pitch for England, Sterling is forming a potent trio up front alongside Three Lions captain Harry Kane and in-form Marcus Rashford.
Southgate said: “You sometimes look at other countries and what they’re doing.
“Then we look back at ours and look at the options we’ve got and we think ‘OK, if I were playing against us I would be worrying about that area of the pitch in particular’.”
Sancho is one of those options.
Sancho made his debut for England after replacing Sterling last year[/caption]
The 18-year-old former Manchester City winger won two caps last autumn after forcing his way into a squad with his outstanding Bundesliga form for Borussia Dortmund.
He is in the squad for the opening Euro 2020 Group A matches against the Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday night and in Montenegro a week tomorrow.
Dortmund have faltered in recent weeks, crashing out of the Champions League against Tottenham and allowing Bayern Munich to overtake them at the top of the Bundesliga.
Sancho, meanwhile, is being linked with a £100million move to Manchester United this summer.
Southgate believes his young star will be able to shake off that kind of speculation but still has plenty to learn from Sterling and his fellow England forwards.
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The England chief has ruled out Sancho being part of Aidy Boothroyd’s squad for the European Under-21 Championship this summer so he can travel to Portugal with the seniors for the Nations League semi- final against Holland on June 6.
He said: “It would be easy to say he’s confident in his ability, but also he’s a human being and he also has, I’m sure, the same doubts and the same questions that everybody has.
“He’s adapted brilliantly to a huge life change. But he’s also got a lot to learn and a lot to improve on.
“There’s been games where he’s had a really big impact and moments in the season where he’s really pushed. And others where he’s been learning so he hasn’t been quite as effective.
“The three forwards we’ve played in our last few matches, they’ve all got that mentality to want to be one of the best players in the world, and that’s brilliant for us.
“To be a top talent you’ve got to have absolutely the right mentality, not waste a day and make sure you’re on it all the time.
“He’s got a great example when he comes into camp with us of what it should be.
“You need that sort of environment, because if we’re going to continue to improve and constantly be hitting semi- finals and finals.
“We’ve got to handle expectations, and so you need players that are going to step up and aren’t satisfied with where they are and want to get better.”