Belfast Telegraph

Spain v England: Raheem Sterling now in the right place to improve his game

By Simon Peach

Raheem Sterling believes Manchester City and England will reap the benefits of his big-money summer move to the Etihad Stadium.

A prolonged and often ugly episode regarding the 20-year-old's future came to an end in July when he finally left Liverpool and made the move along the M62.

City made Sterling the most expensive English player in history and the fleet-footed forward is confident of repaying the eye-watering £49million transfer fee - something that bodes well for club and country.

"To go into training every day and see players of that calibre that I am working with, like Vinny (Kompany), Sergio (Aguero), David (Silva), Joe (Hart), there's only one thing that you can do and that's improve with players like that," Sterling said, speaking in a press conference for the first time since his summer move.

"They've been around for many years, achieving stuff for many years.

"I am just happy to be in a squad like that and hopefully I continue my development and win trophies in the future with my football club."

Things look promising on that front with City top of the Barclays Premier League standings, but Sterling's main focus right now is on international matters.

Having helped England qualify for Euro 2016 with a 100 per cent record, Roy Hodgson's men have travelled to Alicante to step up their preparations for next summer's tournament.

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Friday's match against Spain at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez is followed by another glamour friendly as France head to Wembley on Tuesday - matches Sterling knows will offer a better yardstick with which to measure their post-World Cup improvements.

"We know that it was a good run in qualifying and we were unbeaten, but this is the real challenge," he said.

"We are going to be playing some of Europe's best teams and this is where we get to see where we are in terms of the tournament in the summer.

"Hopefully we can really show what we can do and get the win."

England arrived early on the Costa Blanca for some warm-weather training and team bonding.

The squad could, though, look a whole lot different come next summer given there are 14 squad regulars out injured, but you would not bet against Jamie Vardy holding onto his place.

The former non-league striker's rise shows no signs of abating, having come away with England fresh from netting in a ninth successive Premier League match for Leicester.

"It has been good for English football," Sterling said of Vardy.

"To have him in the national team is obviously really good and hopefully he can keep scoring goals and bring that form into in the England set-up.

"Hopefully his goals can win us some matches in the future."

Meanwhile, Manchester United defender Phil Jones believes England can prove their doubters wrong and show they are serious challengers for Euro 2016 with victories in the two upcoming games.

"We are under no illusions that we have to be at our best to beat the teams that will be put in front of us in the Euros, but these are good tests for us against Spain and France in the next week or so and we will see where we are after that," the 23-year-old said.

"A lot of people say that we have not had the better teams to play against or they have not been good or whatever, but we have to go out and beat what is put in front of us.

"Everyone has played a part and that has to be respected," added Jones.

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