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Sterling should pip bookmakers favourite Van Dijk for Player of the Year, says former Man City captain

As Manchester City prepare to travel to Swansea in the FA Cup live on BT Sport we spoke to Richard Dunne about Raheem Sterling’s recent exploits, the futures of midfield pair Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan; as well as who he thinks should be Fernandinho’s successor.

It’s getting to that time of the season when the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) ask the Premier League stars to vote for their Players' Player of the Year.

Last season Mohamed Salah pipped Kevin De Bruyne to the award and if the bookmakers are to be believed, this season will see another Liverpool v Manchester City battle with three players out in front as it stands.

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Reds centre back Virgil van Dijk is leading the way, with Citizens duo Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling hot on his heels.

Ahead of City’s FA Cup quarter-final against Swansea, live on BT Sport 2 HD and in 4K UHD from 5pm on Saturday, BTSport.com asked Richard Dunne where his vote would lie.

“As fans and supporters of football you want to see players going forward, you want to see people that entertain you, score goals and certainly Sterling has done that,” said Dunne.

“If you’re looking at attacking players I don’t think anyone has been better than Sterling with what he brings to the team with his speed and he’s using his intelligence to get into the right positions.

“From my own point of view as a defender and appreciating what Van Dijk has done for Liverpool, changing their team around in the last 18 months, I think he’s been a big asset to them and such an important player.

“In terms of effect on a team Van Dijk has had that more than most but for entertainment, skill, technique and getting people off their seats Sterling is ahead of him.”

In the build up to City’s 7-0 demolition of Schalke in the Champions League last 16 second leg, BT Sport’s Rio Ferdinand said something similar as he waxed lyrical about the England forward.

In 39 games this season, Sterling has scored 19 times and set up 16 more as he closes in on last year’s 23-goal and 17-assist haul.

“What I love about him is that he keeps progressing and just gets better and better,” added the former Republic of Ireland international.

“Sometimes players reach a level and that’s it but you just don’t see the end with him.

“It helps playing in a team like Man City with the goals and assists he’s getting, he’s certainly a player if not this season then in future that will be challenging for Player of the Year award and maybe even further on a European and world stage.”

Another player who is predicted to have a bright future in the game is academy product Phil Foden, who was man of the match in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Having scored twice against Newport County, calls for the 18-year-old to leave the club on loan in the search for more first-team minutes again reared their head.

But Dunne disagrees, insisting the youngster is in the perfect place to develop under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola having netted again in the midweek Schalke demolition.

“It’s very tough because the way Phil Foden plays football is perfect for Man City,” he added.

“He likes playing short passes and to get on the ball as much as possible and I don’t know where he could go [on loan] and play a similar sort of way that suits him.

“He’d obviously love to be getting a bit more time on the pitch but he’s getting told how good he is by City, I know Pep Guardiola loves him, so I can’t see a better place for him.

“As much as it would be great for him to play more, I just think what he’s learning from those players in training and the few minutes he does get in games will benefit him.”

One midfielder that could be leaving the club this summer is Germany international Ilkay Gundogan who again cooled talk of a new deal ahead of the second leg against Schalke.

The former Borussia Dortmund man penned a four-year contract with the Blues when he joined and that is set to expire in the summer of 2020, meaning he could leave on a free transfer.

With City surely unwilling to lose such an asset for free, if they fail to negotiate new terms in the closing months of the season, the 28-year-old could move on.

In recent weeks he has been deputising at the base of the midfield in Fernandinho’s absence but the ex-City captain does not see him as a successor.

Dunne said: “I could understand if he did move on and wanted to go somewhere else to be the main man in the team because he’s a top player but in that squad he’s just one of many. It would be great for Man City to keep him but they have got other options.

“He’s done that role well when he’s filled in but I think his mentality is that he wants to get forward and wants to be involved in the attacking play in the game. I think he’s someone that can step into that position for a short period but I don’t think City would see him as the man to fill Fernandinho’s shoes for the long term.

“I think Declan Rice at West Ham has been very good, he’s obviously progressed and has been named in the latest England squad. He’s a player I’m sure Man City are keeping their eye on like a few other teams will be.”

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