Gary Neville thinks Raheem Sterling will be the key player if England are to break down Italy’s stubborn rearguard in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday.
Sterling has been in fine form all summer and instrumental for Gareth Southgate’s side as the Three Lions roared into their first major final in 55 years.
The 26-year-old grew up a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium and scored the winner in two Group D fixtures under the arch.
He also broke the deadlock in the last-16 win against Germany and laid on Harry Kane’s opener in the quarter-final victory over Ukraine.
Sterling has been a constant thorn in the side of opposing defenders and drew the controversial penalty which saw off Denmark in the semi-final – Kane seeing his effort saved before turning home the rebound.
Now, ahead of the final against Italy on Sunday, Neville thinks Sterling is heading towards the player of the tournament award.
Neville told Sky Sports: “I think Raheem Sterling is getting towards being player of the tournament. About four or five days ago, I thought it would be Jordan Pickford. Maybe it’s because, at times, I’ve been critical of Pickford during the season but I thought he’d been exceptional in terms of the clean sheets that we’d kept.
“Luke Shaw has been outstanding, Kyle Walker has been absolutely brilliant, Kalvin Phillips has been amazing in central midfield but you’d have to say now with what Sterling did against Denmark, he definitely jumps in front of those if he wasn’t there before.
“He was too good for them. That’s an old-fashioned saying that my dad used to say but Raheem Sterling was just too good for them.
We had to get the boss involved 🤩
Our FINAL visitor to the Diary Room: it’s Gareth Southgate! pic.twitter.com/Uq3Y4QT0Bi
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“And somehow on Sunday we’ve got to find a way to draw Chiellini and Bonucci out so we can get Sterling in that space in and around them. He’s got to be the key because those two Italian defenders are absolutely brilliant.
“They will half fancy Harry Kane in terms of the physicality of it and because Harry is not the quickest. So, Harry will have to be clever on Sunday against Italy.
“Sterling, I’m sure if he can draw one or two of those defenders out of their position by four of five yards. We saw the goal Spain scored where Chiellini was just drawn out with a one-two and Sterling could be absolutely key on Sunday.
“He’s the only one who it feels like he hasn’t been rested. It feels like he’s played every single minute even though he has come off in a game.
“It will be interesting on Sunday. Sterling has been absolutely outstanding. He was brilliant against Denmark and just tore them to shreds time and time again.”