Joey Barton enjoyed a reasonably successful stint with French club Marseille, on loan from QPR. He became very fond of the country and, whilst it’s fair to say not everyone in France took well to Barton, he’s certainly seen as an interesting character.
Barton has been helping French newspaper L’Equipe cover Euro 2016 and in a Monday column he’s given his opinion about Raheem Sterling. The Rangers footballer has been as open as he can be and, without needing to to indulge in hyperbole, it’s fair to say Barton has made a huge attack on Sterling’s ability and his place in the England squad.
“As for Raheem Sterling, he’s been bad for two years now. Sadly, he hasn’t trained well enough. If you take away his speed, he’s really weak and very limited technically. In the final move, he isn’t precise enough or is clumsy. Without his speed, would he be a professional? If he wasn’t this quick, he wouldn’t be able to do this job. And to think he cost £50m!
“I’m really perplexed to see him with the England team after his season. With France, Germany, Belgium or Spain, he would never have a spot, but with England, he’s a starter, which means we’re not that strong in attack.
“I don’t want to bury him completely, because he’s young. With Guardiola, we’ll see within three weeks: either he pushes him aside from the group because he doesn’t find him good enough technically or he’ll help him to progress. However, I’m not sure you can learn how to take a touch and improve the quality of your ball control at 21.”
Sterling has been getting it from many directions this summer, with him being the chosen target of England’s tournament. His Manchester City form certainly wasn’t the best that’s been seen of Sterling, but there’s a reason he was named the best young footballer on the planet in 2014, and he’s not been quite as bad as some are insisting.
At 21 years of age there’s plenty of time for Sterling to come good, but the huge pressure and criticism being sent his way isn’t going to help. Of course, the fee Manchester City paid brings scrutiny, but some of the coverage recently has seemed targeted and a little too enthusiastic.