Joe Hart has defended Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City winger put in a flat performance against Turkey on Sunday.
Sterling completed 73 minutes of the 2-1 victory, starting brightly but fading early on in a performance which mirrored his league season at the Etihad.
The 21-year-old completed a move worth up to £49 million to City last summer, showing a wealth of talent in his early performances.
However, he struggled to continue performing as such a high level, and, with injuries having an impact, Manuel Pellegrini dropped him completely from his side.
The winger is almost guaranteed to be heading to France as part of Roy Hodgson’s squad for the Euros this summer, and Hart believes the only reason Sterling struggled against Turkey was because of the dirty tactics of the opposition players.
“He got kicked to pieces because they couldn’t deal with him, simple as that,” he said.
“Maybe in a championship game a few of them would have been walking a lot tighter rope than they were.
“He was good, I was excited to see it. It was tough for Raheem towards the end of the season, he wasn’t starting games, but that’s gone and it’s a fresh chapter.”
Hart insists that Sterling is a vital player to have in a championship squad, as when he is at the top of his game, the youngster can be a truly world class talent.
He continued: “A fit and firing Raheem Sterling can change games.
“He’s got no point to prove, I see Raheem work every single day trying to improve, he knows he’s 21 and he’s going to get better.”