Never one to shy away from an opinion, Joey Barton has been giving his thoughts on England’s performances at Euro 2016.
In particular, the outspoken Rangers midfielder has been discussing Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, and his appraisal of the £49m man has not exactly been glowing.
Writing in his column for French publication L’Équipe today (in quotes carried by the Mirror), Barton speculated that the only reason Sterling was a professional football in the first place was because of his speed.
Barton said, cuttingly:
“Raheem Sterling has been poor for two years now.
“Unfortunately, he has not been coached well enough. If you take away his pace, he is really weak, very limited technically.”
He continued, and showed no sign of letting up on the former Liverpool forward as the column went on:
“With his final ball, he is imprecise or clumsy. Without his pace, would he be a professional? If he weren’t so quick, he would not be apt to do the job. And to think he cost £50m!
“I am really perplexed to see him in the national team after the season he has had. With France, Germany, Belgium or Spain, he would never be picked.”
Barton, one may recall, had a less-than-stellar international career of his own – a fifteen minute cameo against Spain being the only time he has represented the Three Lions at senior level.
Still, he has never hid his real feelings on the England team – infamously hammering the decision by players such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to release autobiographies so soon after an unimpressive 2006 World Cup campaign in what he perceived as a cash-grab.
Barton concluded his astonishing attack on Sterling by internally debating whether or not the 21 year old could survive under new Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola – technically he is not up to Pep’s standard, and it may be difficult to train that into him:
“I don’t want to write him off completely because he is still young.
“With Guardiola, we will know within three weeks: either he will cut from the group because he will find him not good enough technically or he will help him get better.
“But your touch on the ball, the quality of your control, I don’t know if you can learn that at 21-years-old.”
England play Iceland tonight in a Euro 2016 last sixteen clash, and despite coming in for massive criticism for his performances throughout the tournament, Sterling is expected to be given the nod to start by manager Roy Hodgson.
Whether he is able to put his mental block behind him and start performing, however, remains to be seen.