While Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk secured the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, the Football Writers’ Association went for a different option.
Those who cover the game picked Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling as the Men’s Footballer of the Year after what has been a remarkable – and upsetting – season for the Englishman.
Sterling often found himself part of negative stories due to racial abuse aimed at him while playing for both club and country.
Sterling dealt with these problems admirably and has used his status as a footballer to look at ways to improve the wider community – being a genuinely wonderful person.
But this has seen some doubt if Sterling truly deserved to be named FWA’s Men’s Footballer of the Year, and whether he was picked ahead of the likes of Van Dijk and Sadio Mane simply due to his off-pitch standing.
So we’re here to show you just why Sterling’s FWA award was fully deserved for his exploits on the pitch as well as off it, in true Squawka style.
1. Premier League goal involvement
Like Van Dijk and Liverpool, Sterling has been vital for Manchester City’s title push this season.
Raheem Sterling's 2018/19 Premier League season by numbers so far:
• 32 games
• 17 goals
• 10 assists
Nominated for the PFA Player of the Year, winner of the PFA Young Player of the Year. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/tXoTFyu18T
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 28, 2019
His use as a wide forward by Pep Guardiola has seen Sterling hurt opposition defences both with his own prolificacy in front of goal and eagerness to set up team-mates.
The Englishman has scored 17 goals and recorded 10 assists in 32 games so far, with only three players being directly involved in more Premier League goals this season.
And when broken down to take game time into consideration, Sterling averages 0.94 direct goal involvements per 90 minutes – the third best in the league.
2. Importance to Man City
Not only in the Premier League, Sterling’s importance to Manchester City has spread across all competitions this season.
Guardiola’s men have scored a stunning 158 goals in all competitions this season, as they have fought for silverware on four fronts.
Of those 158 goals, Sterling has scored 23 and provided assists for a further 13, working out to 23.08% of Man City’s overall total. Only Sergio Aguero (24.69%) has been directly involved in a higher percentage of City goals this season.
3. Not just a one-season wonder
Given how impressive Manchester City were last season, cruising to the Premier League and Carabao Cup, it could have been easy for the likes of Sterling to ease off with their performances. The Englishman scored 23 goals in all competitions then, a high for him after finding his form under Guardiola.
Only three Man City players have been named Men's PFA Young Player of the Year:
🔵 1975/75: Peter Barnes
🔵 2017/18: Leroy Sané
🔵 2018/19: Raheem Sterling
You wait 43 years for one… pic.twitter.com/7io7Vdjm9f
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 28, 2019
But rather than dip, Sterling has continued to hit those high levels, matching his goal tally with 23 in 48 games across all competitions.
For a player who scored 21 goals in his first two seasons at Man City, this is a remarkable turnaround, and is only part of the evolution of Sterling.
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4. Champions League exploits
While the PFA’s award focuses solely on the Premier League, the FWA look at a season in English football as a whole. That means continental football can be taken into account, and Sterling played his part in Manchester City’s run to the Champions League quarter-finals – despite their agonising exit.
Raheem Sterling is the first English player to score 2+ goals in a #UCL quarter-final game since Frank Lampard in 2009 (vs. Liverpool).
That game finished 4-4… pic.twitter.com/D7c5gtuWMA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 17, 2019
In that defeat, Sterling became the first English player to score two or more goals in a Champions League quarter-final game since Frank Lampard did so for Chelsea against Liverpool in 2009.
And Sterling was stripped of his hat-trick by VAR in what will go down as one of the most dramatic endings to a match in Champions League history.
5. Extreme chance creator
Sterling’s 10 assists is one of the best tallies in the Premier League this season, and given how many chances the Englishman creates, it is not hard to see why.
The forward has created 66 chances this season, 64 of which have come from open play – more than any other City player, with Sterling not having the added benefit of taking his team’s set pieces.
Among his fellow Premier League players, only Eden Hazard has created more chances from open play with 75, though his added nine have only seen three more assists than Sterling.
6. England’s star
It’s not just for Manchester City that Raheem Sterling has been in good form for. The winger received a lot of criticism for failing to score a goal at the World Cup, but most of it was unfair, as Sterling’s best influence came off the ball.
Plus there’s the fact Harry Kane shot and missed against Croatia when a pass would have meant a certain goal for Sterling and possible World Cup final.
But Sterling has put all that behind him to help fire England to the Uefa Nations League and get the Three Lions off to a perfect start in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
In five games for England post-World Cup, the winger has scored six goals, including a hat-trick in the Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic and another against Montenegro – a game overshadowed for racial abuse thrown at Sterling.