London – England defender John Stones said he would love to see Raheem Sterling named player of the tournament at Euro 2020, and believes his Manchester City team mate can make the difference in tomorrow’s final against Italy, Reuters reported.
Sterling has been one of England’s standout performers at the Euros despite having struggled to keep his place in City’s team this season, scoring three goals to help Gareth Southgate’s side progress to their first-ever European Championship final.
He has been praised for his work off the pitch, too, especially in speaking out against racism in the game, and Stones feels Sterling deserves all that has come his way this summer as a result.
“I have said it all along that I am a big fan of Raheem’s,” centre back Stones told a news conference yesterday. “I would love to see him get player of the tournament. The unselfish work he does goes unspoken, but as players we see it.
“He has been a great threat going forward with how direct he has been. It has been great playing with him, and I am sure he will be giving everything on Sunday and hopefully get another goal and see where it takes us.
“I could not be happier for him. He has gone through some difficult times personally and you can see it has motivated him. He has come out of it a better player. The top players find a way when things aren’t going well, and Raheem has done that on and off the pitch.”
England are unbeaten in their last 12 matches in all competitions, keeping 10 clean sheets and conceding just two goals in the process, and go into Sunday’s clash up against a similarly resolute Italian side.
“We have the best defensive record in the competition and that is a major factor in why we have got to the final,” Stones added. “I have said all along that keeping clean sheets works as a platform for us to go and win games.
“It is not just us as a back four, but it starts from the top. How we have pressed further up the pitch is a major part of our game. It is a major part of tournament football to defend this way, we learned that in Russia at the last World Cup.
“The teams who have won tournaments over the years have been teams who have defended set plays well and not conceded goals in big moments. Managing the game is something we have created in our squad.”