There has never been any doubt about Raheem Sterling's quality as a footballer - he is one of the very best - but it did look increasingly like his time at Manchester City may be coming to an end.
Sterling enjoyed a fantastic Euro 2020. From the very first game in which he scored the winner against Croatia after many had bemoaned his spot in the starting XI, all the way to the final before it all ended in heartbreak. Yet his performances were a major factor in getting England there and he was deservedly named in the Team of the Tournament.
A resurgent summer came after a difficult season in which he suddenly found himself out of favour under Pep Guardiola. His goal tally from the previous season halved, he often found himself on the bench and his surprise inclusion in the Champions League final was pointed to as a major factor for City's defeat to Chelsea.
Despite his incredible displays for the Three Lions, however, he remained on the outside looking in at City, with all the momentum he had built up fading away. In the first 11 Premier League games of the campaign he started just three games, only one of which was won.
He spent so much time on the sidelines that murmurings that a departure, even in January, could be on the cards, with Barcelona repeatedly linked despite their perilous financial situation.
But in the aftermath of the November international break, a route back into the side opened up for Sterling and he has taken the chance with both hands.
Jack Grealish and Phil Foden both returned from England duty with knocks and Kevin De Bruyne contracted Covid-19 while in Belgium, leaving Guardiola light on options in attack and with no other option but to play Sterling.
In the five games since the 26-year-old has made a goal contribution in four of them. He broke the deadlock against Everton and Watford, set up the first against Aston Villa and bagged the crucial equaliser against Paris Saint-Germain in a 2-1 win. Not only is he getting amongst the goals again but they are also important ones, too.
He's scoring the clinical tap-ins that first saw him become one of the most lethal finishers in the league as well as sublime volleys but more than just scoring, his confidence is back as well.
Sterling is now looking like the player of 2019 once more, running at defenders with a dazzling speed that usually leaves them in knots. Leading counter-attacking charges, being dangerous around the box and decisive in it. This is the Sterling City have been missing and they have got him back at the perfect time.
Since City have been struck with a minor injury crisis - with Ferran Torres, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Ilkay Gundogan and Aymeric Laporte (through suspension) all missing at least one game - they have managed to win all of their matches.
Those wins have seen the Blues leapfrog Chelsea and Liverpool to take top spot in the title race and qualify above PSG in their Champions League group. It's been a vital part of the season with some potentially tough fixtures that the club have navigated to perfection. Sterling finding his form at club level again has played a massive role in that.
With Guardiola's options nearly fully replenished with the returns of Grealish, Foden and De Bruyne, it'll be interesting to see how he lines up his attack going forward. But the manager has never been one to drop a player when he's playing well, so Sterling will likely be remaining in the side for a while yet.
If he can keep his performances as good as they have been then City will surely be lifting some silverware come May.
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