Football News

‘Sterling beating Salah, Mbappe and Neymar in the race for Messi’s crown’ – Xavi

By Steve Jennings

Raheem Sterling

Published: 15:22, 18 September 2019

Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi has tipped Raheem Sterling to eventually replace Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world.

Xavi was considered one of the game’s leading midfielders during his Barcelona days, where he played alongside Messi and won multiple major honours.

Is Sterling among those pushing Messi and Ronaldo? Five things to know…

  • Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won the Ballon d’Or five times each.
  • Luka Modric is the only other player to have won the Ballon d’Or since 2007.
  • Xavi name-checked Sterling, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mohamed Salah as players who are pushing the duo.
  • Sterling was named FWA Footballer of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year last season.
  • The forward has scored 31 goals in his last 57 appearances for Manchester City.

The World Cup winner, who currently manages Al-Sadd in Qatar, says it will be soon be time for someone to take over from Messi and Ronaldo as the best player on the planet.

And Xavi believes Sterling is currently beating the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mohamed Salah in that race.

“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,” Xavi said.

“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, Mbappe, 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 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 that – he’s still young and can be the world’s best.”

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“Barcelona, Man City and Liverpool the favourites for the Champions League”

Xavi went on to suggest Pep Guardiola will be prioritising the Champions League this season, after back-to-back league titles with Man City.

“With Barcelona, I look at Manchester City and Liverpool as being the favourites for the Champions League this season,” he added.

“We already know that Liverpool have shown they have what it takes to win the Champions League and they are a very strong team.

“And after two Premier League titles I think Pep will really prioritise the Champions League this season. You never know what can happen – but I look at those three as one of the winners.”

Liverpool began their defence of the trophy with a 2-0 defeat to Napoli on Tuesday while Barcelona played out at goalless draw with Borussia Dortmund.

Manchester City’s campaign begins against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.