Raheem Sterling would not even be a professional footballer if he were “without his speed”, according to Joey Barton.
Sterling signed for Manchester City from Liverpool for an initial £44million last summer, and endured a mixed campaign at the Etihad Stadium.
The 21-year-old ended the season with 11 goals in 47 games, helping City to a maiden Champions League semi-final and fourth place in the Premier League.
But he has struggled for consistent form throughout, and has now been subjected to boos from his own fans at Euro 2016.
Sterling is expected to start England’s last-16 tie against Iceland on Monday having dropped to the bench for the group game against Slovakia after two lacklustre performances against Russia and Wales.
Writing for French newspaper L’Equipe, former Marseille midfielder Barton believes that the winger would not even be a professional footballer were he not blessed with pace.
“As for Raheem Sterling, he’s been bad for two years now,’ Barton said. “Sadly, he hasn’t trained well enough.
“If you take away his speed, he’s really weak and very limited technically. In the final move, he isn’t precise enough or is clumsy. Without his speed, would he be a professional? If he wasn’t this quick, he wouldn’t be able to do this job. And to think he cost £50m!
“I’m really perplexed to see him with the England team after his season. With France, Germany, Belgium or Spain, he would never have a spot, but with England, he’s a starter, which means we’re not that strong in attack.
“I don’t want to bury him completely, because he’s young. With Guardiola, we’ll see within three weeks: either he pushes him aside from the group because he doesn’t find him good enough technically or he’ll help him to progress. However, I’m not sure you can learn how to take a touch and improve the quality of your ball control at 21.”