Why Raheem Sterling was right to leave Liverpool - Ian Wright

By Ian WrightMOTD pundit
Match of the Day

A lot of people thought Raheem Sterling made the wrong career move when he joined Manchester City for £49m from Liverpool in the summer, but I'm pleased to see he has slotted straight in.

There were question marks over the game time he would get at City, but only two other players aged under 21 have played more Premier League minutes than him this season.

Raheem Sterling's Premier League game time 2015-16
Sterling has completed 90 minutes only once in the Premier League for City - in their 4-1 defeat at Tottenham in September - but has played a total 772 minutes out of a possible 1,080. Only two other players aged under 21 have played more - Arsenal's Hector Bellerin (900) and Everton's Brendan Galloway (891)

Sterling is not just playing, he is playing well too. He has not made the same impact at City as another of their recent big-money signings, Kevin de Bruyne, in terms of goals and assists but he has made a very steady start.

I think the only thing Raheem will be disappointed about is that he has been substituted in nine of the 10 league games he has started for City so far.

But that should just make him realise he is still a young player who has got to work a little bit harder on his weaknesses as well as his strengths.

He is only 20 and there is a lot more to come from him. He has the potential to be one of the greats but he will not fulfil his promise without a lot of hard work.

Graphic comparing Raheem Sterling's feats with those of Kevin de Bruyne this season

Aspire to be more like Overmars

It is obvious Sterling has to add more goals to his game, but I think he needs to improve his end product generally.

Yes, he put in the cross to the back post for Wayne Rooney's volleyed goal in England's friendly with France this week.

Raheem Sterling: From QPR to Man City's new £49m player

But I was at Wembley working as a pundit and sitting next to Paul Scholes, who made me laugh when he said Raheem was actually aiming for Harry Kane, who was running in at the near post.

I don't know if that comment was just down to Scholesy's Manchester United allegiance, but it is true that Sterling's crossing has been extremely poor for City this season - he has a success rate of less than 6% from open play.

Whether it is his finishing or his crossing we are talking about, it clearly needs to be much better to make the most of his ability to get behind opposition defences.

My old Arsenal team-mate Marc Overmars is exactly the kind of player I think he should aspire to be.

Overmars was a winger but when he got into the box I always backed him to score. His goals-to-game ratio for the Gunners was incredible.

Former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars
Dutch winger Marc Overmars scored 41 goals in 143 games for Arsenal between 1997 and 2000, while Sterling has scored 29 goals in 145 games for Liverpool and Manchester City

Part of that was down to the quality of his finishing - he almost always seemed to hit the target, and was capable of placing his shots - but he would get himself in the right positions to be able to score too.

Sterling has been used centrally as well as on the left by City but, if he is out wide, I want to see him get to the back post when crosses come in from the opposite flank to pick up anything that comes through to him, which is the sort of thing Overmars always looked to do.

Practice makes perfect

Raheem Sterling scores for England
Sterling's goal against Estonia in October was the second time he scored during England's successful Euro 2016 qualification campaign

Sterling's finishing has been questioned, and maybe he also makes the wrong decision sometimes when he is through in one-on-one situations - I have seen him shoot straight at the goalkeeper quite a lot.

But even if you are not a natural finisher you can get both of those things right with experience and practice, so it is good to hear he has been working on them in training.

Even the best strikers work on their technique and he should be using those sessions as an opportunity to miss and work out what he should do differently next time.

I would look back at chances I missed and think maybe I should have had a cleaner strike there or, if the goalkeeper committed himself early, I should have slotted it past him rather than striking the ball hard.

But sometimes there is no definite right answer as to what you do when you are in front of goal - as long as you put the ball in the net.

It comes down to the individual and what he believes he has to do. The more times you are in those situations, the more you get used to it and have the composure to get it right.

Raheem Sterling
2014-15 (Liverpool)Premier League2015-16 (Man City)
49Minutes per shot45
53.23%Shooting accuracy64.71%
5/8Clear chances scored/missed3/5
81.1%Passing accuracy85.6%
22.2%Crossing accuracy5.6%
41Minutes per chance created48

I think Sterling is getting there, slowly. Since his move to City, he is getting more clear-cut chances in front of goal, is having more shots and his shooting accuracy is better than last season too.

No wonder he is already scoring more goals - he got seven in the league last season but already has four for City - but he needs to keep on working on that aspect of his game.

Confidence is key

Man City forward Raheem Sterling
Sterling celebrates after scoring against Sevilla in the Champions League - City are already through to the knockout stages of this season's tournament

From watching Sterling I can see he is full of confidence at the moment - he believes he is good enough to be in the City team with players of the calibre of Yaya Toure and David Silva, and he is right.

It is great to see, because I know only too well what it is like when a young player has his self-belief absolutely blasted out of him after a big-money transfer.

When my son Shaun Wright-Phillips joined Chelsea for £21m in 2005, it looked like the dream move for him.

He was 23 and had been absolutely flying for City, who wanted to sell him to the highest bidder because they were £62m in debt. Their fans didn't know it at the time, but it wasn't up to him whether he stayed or not.

Shaun Wright-Phillips
Shaun Wright-Phillips had two spells at Manchester City, leaving for a second time to join QPR in 2011. He is now playing with younger brother Bradley at Major League Soccer club New York Red Bulls in the United States

I was delighted when Arsenal came in but they pulled out when the bidding got to £12m. Then Chelsea blew everyone else out of the water.

They were the champions and, at the time, Jose Mourinho played with wingers so it seemed like the perfect fit.

Arjen Robben and Damien Duff were there so I knew Shaun was going to Chelsea to contend with world-class players but, just like with Raheem at City, I expected them to help him improve too.

Sadly it did not work out like that. I went to watch him a few times when he first joined and, no matter how well he played, he would always get taken off. Eventually he lost his starting place altogether.

It was heart-breaking to watch but he has got a very placid demeanour so he just got on with it - he never told me it bothered him.

But my observation of the whole situation was that it must have affected his confidence because he stopped playing like he had at City, and it had an adverse effect on him for the rest of his career.

Shaun Wright-Phillips
Wright-Phillips made 15 starts and 39 appearances for Chelsea in his first season at Stamford Bridge but completed 90 minutes only twice, on both occasions in the FA Cup, and had to wait until his 26th appearance to do so. He played 125 times for the Blues but completed only 12 Premier League matches in three seasons

When he was at City he was like a little rubber man, who would get kicked, get up and take a few men on. He scored a lot of goals that way and City fans loved him because he had come through the youth team and epitomised what they wanted to see.

At Chelsea he turned into a player that played safe. He did not take risks and he stopped taking people on.

It is easy to say now that it was the wrong move but I look back at it now and still think he was right to go - there was no way he could have turned that opportunity down, and it is just a shame the way things turned out.

He could not have tried any harder - nobody who has worked with Shaun would question his work ethic - and it is just a shame the way things turned out.

Other players have had the same experience too - a move that looks like being a fairytale does not pan out that way.

It happened to Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell when they joined Manchester City. Of course we know now what happened and that they hardly played but, when they signed, they would not have been thinking that a year down the line they would be regretting this - they would have been thinking that a great team is willing to pay a lot of money for me.

That is how you go into those deals. You won't move to the next level otherwise and, when you sign, you are thinking you are going to be the player where they can say 'it did work out for him'.

Sterling can handle being in the spotlight

Raheem Sterling celebrates with Steven Gerrard during his Liverpool days
Sterling was a key part of the Liverpool team that was pipped to the Premier League title by Manchester City in 2014

Whatever Sterling achieves in his career, two things are certain: he will always be known for his £49m price tag, and he will always get stick from Liverpool fans when he plays his former team.

Sterling faces the Reds on Saturday for the first time since his controversial departure from Anfield, and I am sure he knows what sort of reception he will get from their travelling fans.

I expect he will take it in his stride - from meeting him a couple of times I know he is quite a cool and calm character, and he can cope with being in the spotlight.

His transfer should definitely have been handled differently but he was right to leave Liverpool if he thought he could better himself - now he owes it to himself to be as good as he can be to prove his decision was right.