Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has been hailed as an “inspiration” to young players after being voted the 2019 Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association.
The England international topped the poll of the 400-strong FWA membership as a clear winner, with 62% of the votes. He was more than 100 ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk.
Sterling’s team-mate Sergio Aguero was in third place. The FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year award for 2019 was Manchester City’s England forward Nikita Parris, who won the vote of an FWA panel of experts by the narrowest of margins from Arsenal and Holland striker Vivianne Miedema.
Other players to receive votes from FWA members were, in alphabetical order: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Bernardo Silva and David Silva (Manchester City).
On Sunday evening, Sterling, 24, was announced as the 2018-19 Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year.
As well as being a key man in Pep Guardiola’s side as they battle with Liverpool for the Premier League title, Sterling has also received praised for the strong stance he has taken against racism in the game, having himself been subjected to abuse.
Sterling’s England team-mate Jadon Sancho said:
He is an inspiration to a lot of youngsters, especially because he is from London and I am from London. I am sure every youngster from London will look up to him and probably (try) to be like him and win big awards like that one day.
The Borussia Dortmund winger has also been impressed by Sterling’s determination to speak out on racist abuse in football.
“I agree with Raheem a lot. He has had some tough experiences,” he said.
Sterling has scored 29 goals for club and country, including a hat-trick for England in the opening Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic at Wembley, while also helping Gareth Southgate’s young squad reach this summer’s Nations League finals.
It was Sterling who converted the decisive spot-kick as City beat Chelsea on penalties to win the Carabao Cup final during February — and the forward could also yet end up with an FA Cup winners’ medal.
Sterling will be presented with the Footballer of the Year trophy, which has been awarded since 1948, at The Landmark London on May 9, when Parris will also collect her accolade.
Newly-elected FWA chair Carrie Brown said: “Raheem Sterling is a player of style and a man of substance.
“More than 70 years ago Charles Buchan, one of the founding fathers of the Football Writers’ Association, suggested there be an award presented to the player who by “precept and example” is considered the Footballer of the Year.
“Raheem Sterling is an exemplar of the talent and values our founding fathers sought to reward when they established the FWA in 1947.
“To have been voted the 2019 Footballer of the Year by our members, and with such an overwhelming majority, clearly acknowledges the contribution from a player over one season.
“But it also recognises the huge impact of Raheem’s courage to challenge preconceptions and fight racism, which will leave a legacy not just for future generations in football but society as a whole. Eyes have been opened, voices found, we are listening and will be at the forefront of the continued drive for equality.
On the pitch, Raheem has evolved into one of the most dangerous forwards in the world. A player long admired for his tactical intelligence, link-up play and quick feet has now added a devastating finish to his game.
Brown added: “Raheem didn’t set out to be a leader, but he is setting examples in society and in the game which the world is following with interest.”
Meanwhile, John Stones believes the older heads in the City dressing room are vital as they aim to see off Liverpool’s title challenge.
City will retain the Premier League crown if they win their final two games against Leicester at home and Brighton away, but with Liverpool just a point behind there is little room for error.
It is a far cry from last season when City won the title with five games to spare and went on to finish a record 19 points clear of their nearest rival.
Defender Stones said: “It’s a different scenario, last season the league was done by now. It’s a strange situation because some of us haven’t been in this situation before.
“I think Vinny (Kompany) said that these are the times when it brings the best out of you as a player, but him as a player, David (Silva), Sergio (Aguero) and a few of the others have been in this situation before. They know what the feeling is, how to get the best out of it.
“We’ve got to be guided by those and try to take everything in. It makes everything exciting, keeps everyone on our toes. It’s exciting to be part of it.”