John Stones has backed England and Manchester City team-mate Raheem Sterling to be named player of the tournament at Euro 2020.
Sterling has been in fine form all summer and instrumental for Gareth Southgate’s side as the Three Lions roared into their first major final in 55 years.
The 26-year-old grew up a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium and scored the winner in two Group D fixtures under the arch.
He also broke the deadlock in the last-16 win against Germany and laid on Harry Kane’s opener in the quarter-final victory over Ukraine.
Sterling has been a constant thorn in the side of opposing defenders and drew the controversial penalty which saw off Denmark in the semi-final – Kane seeing his effort saved before turning home the rebound.
Now, ahead of the final against Italy on Sunday, Stones believes Sterling has been good enough to earn the accolade as Euro 2020’s best player.
“I’ve said it all along but I’m a big fan of Raheem’s,” he said.
“I believe and I’d love to see him get player of the tournament. What he’s done for us and the unselfish part of his game goes unspoken about.
“But as players we see it. He’s been a great threat going forward with how direct he’s been in the games and it has been great playing with him.
“I’m sure he will be giving everything on Sunday, being that direct, and hopefully get another goal and see where it takes us.”
The signs did not look good for Sterling ahead of the Euros, having scored just one in his last 16 games of the season for Manchester City and being in and out of the side.
Stones praised Sterling’s power of recovery and now wants to see him light up Wembley once again in Sunday’s final.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” he said.
“He has gone through some difficult times personally and I can only speak from my point of view and what I have been through, but you can see it has motivated him and he has come out the other end a better player.
“That is what top, top players do – they find something or they find a way when something isn’t going well to succeed and excel as a person and as a player and Raheem has done that on and off the pitch, so all I can say is that he really deserves it.”
The clash with Italy will be England’s first appearance in a major tournament final for 55 years, with Stones not playing down the size of the occasion.
“It’s huge,” he added.
“With it being at Wembley as well it’s even more special – something we could have only dreamt of at the start of the tournament.
“We’ve got this far now and we’ve grown throughout the tournament and not put too much pressure on ourselves. We’ve overcome some tough tests over the last few years.
“We’ve learned a lot of things and gained a lot of experience and that’s got us to where we are on Sunday. It’s a massive occasion.”