Rio Ferdinand has hailed Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling as one of the best five players in the world after his excellent performance in the Champions League.
The England forward struck three times in the space of 11 minutes as City came from behind to cruise past Atalanta and go five points clear in Group C.
AFP or licensorsRaheem Sterling celebrates after scoring a hat-trick on Tuesday
That treble took his tally to 12 goals in 13 games for City in all competitions this season, making Sterling their top scorer with two more than Sergio Aguero, who netted twice himself on Tuesday.
Former Manchester United defender Ferdinand heaped praise on the 24-year-old, saying he has to be included when mentioning the world’s top players.don't missKRC Genk vs Liverpool commentary: Live Champions League action and line-upssupportLionesses star Bethany England backs Phil Neville and says major honours will comeLEADERKane challenges Spurs to get revenge on Liverpool after ‘perfect response’ in Europenot readyJohn Stones reveals why Pep Guardiola was angry with him during Atalanta clashsay what?'Have you taken stupid pills?' - Cundy slams 'deluded' Spurs caller after 5-0 winNOT TRUELampard dismisses idea that transfer ban is the reason for playing youngstershe's readyParlour urges Leeds to start Nketiah after Bielsa defends use of Arsenal strikerrecordComparing Wenger's last 47 games to Emery's first 47 at Arsenal
“He’s in the top five players in the world now, definitely,” Ferdinand told BT Sport. “I don’t care who you want to mention, the five top players – he’s got to be in that conversation.
“Because the amount of goals he’s getting, the effect he’s having on games. It’s impossible to keep him out.”
Asked whether he was the best player in the Premier League, Ferdinand responded: ‘I’d say yeah. I love everything about him.”
City boss Pep Guardiola was another to commend this latest all-round showing by Sterling, who became the eighth Englishman to net a Champions League hat-trick, describing him as ‘extraordinary’.
“His physicality is incredible,” said Guardiola. “He is strong – the day after the game, he could play another game – his regeneration is incredible.
“He can play both sides and he is fast so, defensively, he helps us a lot. He is an extraordinary, extraordinary player.”
Sterling is in the running to win this year’s Ballon d’Or and is joined on the 30-man shortlist by City team-mates Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez.