Real Madrid have renewed their interest in Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling, according to Sky Sports, with the European champions on the lookout for reinforcements following Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure for Juventus.
The 23-year-old, who has 44 caps for England, has been outstanding for City over the last year and a half and his development has not gone unnoticed in the Spanish capital.
Sterling registered a career-high 23 goals in all competitions for the Premier League champions last season, while also contributing 17 assists, silencing critics who had labelled him a £49million flop after his 2015 move to the Etihad from Liverpool.
Even without Ronaldo, though, Madrid boast a talent-packed squad bursting with attacking options, with the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vázquez all ready to up their games in the Portuguese superstar's absence.
So do Madrid really need Sterling? And would the Englishman offer anything they don't already have.
As the above Player Persona diagram shows, Sterling's style of play and on-field tendencies differ from those of the players he'd be competing for minutes with at the Bernabéu.
While Benzema is the side's primary centre-forward, the Frenchman plays the role as a facilitator for others, rather than showing the kind of drive for goals most No.9's are known for.
As such, Sterling's ability to time runs in behind opposition defences or find pockets of space in crowded penalty areas would help replenish some of the goal threat lost by Ronaldo's Serie A sale.
But Sterling is a creator too, as the above stats comparison graphic illustrates. Although Benzema returned more assists per 90 minutes in league action last season, Sterling's was the healthiest average when it came to expected goals assisted (xA) – a measure of the quality of chances created by a player.
Therefore, what Sterling would offer Los Blancos boss Julen Lopetegui is a level of directness without sacrificing chance-creating ability.
It's also worth noting Sterling's expected goals (xG) average per 90 minutes from last season, too. While Bale was a more prolific scorer in the game time he was afforded, Sterling displayed a greater ability to consistently sniff out high-quality chances.
It has been noted that, despite improvements made over the last year or so, finishing is not especially Sterling's strong suit, with the City star often seen squandering presentable chances.
But his ability to consistently find high-probability scoring chances means – similar to Ronaldo in his final years in Madrid – Sterling isn't reliant on world-class finishing to score a high number of goals, rather the volume of chances he finds sees him score regularly and at a sustainable rate.
For their part, City must resist all offers for Sterling as, despite Pep Guardiola possessing arguably the strongest squad in Europe, the former Liverpool forward's skillset is unique and he has become vital to making City's style and system so profitable in front of goal.
If Madrid do manage to prise Sterling away from the Etihad, however, there is little doubt he has the ability to add a new dimension to the 13-time champions of Europe.