Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling is surpassed in world football by only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former England team-mate Joleon Lescott.
The 25-year-old wideman may not have been able to help Pep Guardiola’s side record a third successive Premier League title but he has enjoyed another strong individual campaign, netting 14 goals and chalking up three assists in 29 league outings this season.
His latest contribution was scoring in City's 5-0 rout of Newcastle on Wednesday, and former centre-back Lescott believes the former Liverpool man should be recognised among the absolute elite of the game.
“Raheem has taken himself to the top tier now,” Lescott told the club’s ‘We’re not Really Here’ matchday show. “He has to be regarded as one of the top wide players or forwards in the game because he contributes.
"He has the ability to play well and win man of the match and not score and then on other occasions he just scores and impacts the game that way.
“I think you have to be pretty naïve to not respect what he’s doing. There are players like Messi and Ronaldo that are scoring 50 goals a season. They are super freaks! In terms of the next tier, Raheem has to be compared to those kinds of players.”
Lescott also suggested that Sterling could be a capable stand in for Sergio Aguero, who is presently out injured, in a centre-forward role for City.
“There are always going to be options for players to play in different positions, but Raheem has proven he can play as a No.9,” Lescott, who turned out for City between 2009 and 2014, said.
“The No.9s that we’ve come across in the past in the Premier League needed to hold up the ball, but that doesn’t need to happen for City.
“You need to make runs off the ball and create space for other people in possession and obviously have the composure that Raheem’s got in front of goal.
“He’s now our top goal scorer, I didn’t think there would be a time when someone would score more than Sergio Aguero whilst he is at the club. I know he’s been injured, but it’s a credit to him.”