Xavi: Raheem Sterling Winning Race to Succeed Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2019

NORWICH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Manchester City at Carrow Road on September 14, 2019 in Norwich, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Barcelona legend Xavi has backed Raheem Sterling to succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as "the world's best" player.

Manchester City forward Sterling has developed from a talented youngster into a bona fide superstar under manager Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

In City's record-breaking Premier League title-winning campaigns in 2017-18 and 2018-19, he was arguably the club's most important player, netting 35 goals and providing 21 assists in 67 appearances.

In five Premier League appearances so far in 2019-20, he has five goals, and he was also superb for England in the September international break:

For Xavi, Barcelona's Messi and Juventus' Ronaldo remain the benchmark in world football—with his former team-mate the greatest-ever—but Sterling is in the box seat to replace them when they begin to wane, per David McDonnell in the Mirror:

"Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the best player in the world awards for so many years now, it's hard to remember a time before them. Messi is the best-ever for me, and even though they're both still playing at a very high level, there will come the day not so long away when somebody else must step into those shoes.

"You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Mohamed] Salah, and of course Sterling. I look at the moment—and Sterling is winning that race. He's always been a good player, a dangerous player, but under Pep he [has] become one of the best in the world. 

"I know how Pep works, he would have worked closely with him since his arrival—where he needs to improve and what he needed to work on. We're now seeing the results of thathe's still young and can be the world's best."

Sterling's City side suffered a shock defeat to Norwich City on Saturday in the Premier League to leave them trailing Liverpool by five points:

They are back in action on Wednesday when they start their 2019-20 UEFA Champions League campaign with a Group C clash against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Guardiola led Barcelona to Champions League glory twice in his four seasons in charge at the Camp Nou, but he only managed three consecutive semi-finals with Bayern Munich, and his City side have underperformed in Europe's elite competition:

Such is the strength of their squad, though, they have a fantastic chance to win the Champions League this season:

And in order for Sterling to establish himself with the likes of Messi and Ronaldo among the world's best players, he will need to play a key role in City winning titles both domestically and in Europe.   

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