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Raheem Sterling is on course to join the top ten goalscorers in Premier League history

Raheem Sterling (£4.9m) bagged the fifth hat-trick of his Premier League career at the weekend.

Man City’s No7 scored his 104th, 105th and 106th goals in the English top flight against Norwich, going clear of Sadio Mane (£4.6m) and overtaking Didier Drogba in the all-time list.

The latter is viewed by many as one of the greatest strikers this country has hosted in the modern era, though the truth is Drogba’s legacy is built on big moments rather a consistent record of relentless goalscoring.

The Chelsea legend was prolific in major finals and always seemed to save his best performances for big derbies.

Unplayable on his day, Drogba was the archetypal clutch player but the fact remains in his nine seasons at Stamford Bridge, he scored more than 12 league goals only twice.

Legacy builder

Legacy builder

Under Pep Guardiola, Sterling has been a consistent scorer in the world’s most-watched league.

He’s reached double figures in each of the last five seasons, including the current campaign.

His last 75 league goals have come from just 152 fixtures, including many substitute appearances – a goal every 166 minutes over the last five years allows for a clearer view.

Sterling’s transformation under arguably the world’s best coach has set him on course for greatness.

Still just 27 years old, it’s likely he’ll breach the top ten goalscorers in Premier League history if he plays out the rest of his career in England, which isn’t guaranteed of course.

He averages approximately 13.4 league goals per season for Man City.

If he is able to maintain that rate then he’ll go past Thierry Henry’s tally of 175 Prem goals well before his 33rd birthday – only five players have scored more goals than the legendary Frenchman at this stage.

Only Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah have scored more league goals this season

Only Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah have scored more league goals this season

Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect Sterling to keep up his current rate of scoring for another five years, it’s likely that we’ve already seen his peak (he scored 31 goals in all competitions in 2019/20) and Guardiola’s successor at the Etihad will do very well to keep City operating at even 70% of the level they’ve exhibited in recent years.

Plus, there have been whispers that Sterling may seek a challenge somewhere else before long, at a club less dominant on a match-by-match basis than the current English champions.

And of course, in the majority of cases, natural deterioration is to be expected once a player reaches their 30s.

However, even if we adjust Sterling’s average goal return to ten a season, he’ll still go past current top ten members Michael Owen, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Fowler by the age of 33.

As one of only 32 players to have scored a century of Premier League goals, it could be argued that his legacy is already secured.

A fourth league title appears to be a formality, he’s triumphed in both domestic cups (several times over in the case of the League Cup), and he’s won one of the two main individuals awards in English football, FWA Footballer of the Year (2019/20).

Sterling has been a key protagonist during City’s glory years

Sterling has been a key protagonist during City’s glory years

Last summer he came ever so close to spearheading England to international glory – had the penalty shootout go differently he would have been heralded as a national hero for his efforts at Euro 2020.

The Champions League is the most obvious missing piece and City are favourites to scratch their deepest itch this season.

Sterling has faced plenty of criticism during his career but his body of work at 27 is undeniably impressive.

He is prone to a glaring miss every now and then but it’s abundantly clear that his positive attributes comfortably outweigh the negatives.

No player has played in more games under Guardiola, that says almost everything you need to know.

Let’s give him his flowers now rather than taking the Paul Scholes approach of waiting until he’s retired before giving him his dues.

From a Dream Team perspective, Sterling is now the third-best midfielder in the game.

His 24-point haul at the expense of the Canaries allowed him to overtake team-mate Kevin De Bruyne (£6.6m) although the Belgian will get his chance to respond when City take on Sporting CP in Lisbon.