Chelsea v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Final
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates with the trophy after winning the Carabao Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 24, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

It takes something special to stand out in this current Manchester City team. Pep Guardiola has assembled a squad full of world-class talent. Yet, this season, Raheem Sterling has shone more than anyone else.

His hattrick against Watford on Saturday was the latest demonstration of how good a player Sterling has become. He’s a key player for club and country.

Loathe as we are to credit England stars, there’s no escaping how good Sterling actually is. The potential he once showed as a youngster has turned into actual talent. There’s also no escaping the fact that he’s the main man for Guardiola and City.

A look at his numbers shows how impressive Sterling is performing. Those three goals against the Hornets on Saturday took him to 15 league goals this season. Sergio Aguero, a world-class striker, only has three more than him in those standings.

Manchester City v Watford FC - Premier League Sterling
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 09: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Indeed, a look at the Premier League top goalscorers further emphasises the point. Sterling’s 15 goals means he is in the top four scorers in the division. Those are impressive numbers by anyone’s reckoning.

You have to look beyond the numbers to see how Sterling is now the main man at the Etihad, though. Primarily, look at how much faith Guardiola continues to put in the England forward.

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 26: Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton removes his shirt as he celebrates victory after the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Everton FC at Cardiff City Stadium on February 26, 2019 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Calvert-Lewin relishes Everton challenge

The 22-year-old has been manager Marco Silva's first choice ahead of Turkey international Cenk Tosun in the English Premier League team.

The Catalan boss is a manager who often rotates his squad. Even the biggest players in his team are rotated out on occasion to keep things fresh. Yet Sterling never seems to be a victim of it. He is a regular in the starting eleven in spite of Guardiola’s rotation policy.

It shows that the City boss has the utmost faith in Sterling to produce weekly. He sees Sterling as a player that does not need the occasional reminder to keep his performance levels up. Instead, he is comfortable to keep picking him as a starter. Even Aguero doesn’t receive that kind of faith.

FC Schalke 04 v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Sterling
GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 20: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Guardiola’s substitutions further prove the point. He continually removes Sterling at the earliest opportunity when things are going well. It’s a sign of he sees Sterling. He is always looking to protect him from potential injuries or complications. The reason why is a clear one; he knows that he needs Sterling fit every week as City chase the title.

On the other hand, when things aren’t going well, it’s rare to see Sterling removed. Why? Because Guardiola has the faith that he’ll produce the moment his side needs. He’s done it regularly at the club during Guardiola’s reign.

Without Sterling, it is unlikely that they would even be in the title race. No player in their squad has hit the levels that he has this season.

He has been a key player this season, the same way he was a key player in their title success last season. His development under Guardiola has been astounding. You cannot overlook the facts, Sterling is the main man at Manchester City these days.