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Rio Ferdinand has revealed the details of a message sent by Raheem Sterling just hours before the forward got England off to the perfect start at Euro 2020.
Sterling scored the winner against Croatia to secure the Three Lions three vital group-stage points at a sun-soaked Wembley Stadium.
The Manchester City forward was a controversial inclusion by boss Gareth Southgate after being preferred to the likes of Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
But he vindicated his selection by clinically scoring the winning goal just after the half-time break, his first in a major tournament.
Sterling was found by impressive midfielder Kalvin Phillips and netted, prompting Wembley to erupt.
Raheem Sterling got England's Euros campaign off to the perfect start
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The 26-year-old has been criticised heading into the tournament but was lively in England's front three, which included captain Harry Kane and City teammate Phil Foden.
Manchester United great turned pundit Ferdinand shares a close relationship with Sterling, and revealed an exciting message the winger sent him on the morning of the game.
"He looked like a player today who hadn't been on the bench for Man City," Ferdinand told the BBC.
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"He looked like a player who played consistently. The confidence he played with – he was the brightest spark for the first 15 minutes of this team.
"I speak to him quite a lot on the phone and he said to me this morning 'it's time' and he was the one who came out here today and looked the sharpest, liveliest, looked the one ready to take the responsibility on to score and get us over the line and get us the three points."
"When you speak to any players around the game, especially defenders, they all say he's a nightmare to play against. The movement, the strength, positions he takes up.
"Yeah he might fluff his lines every now and then, like we saw with the left foot chance, but he gets that many chances he's going to hit the target and inevitably going to score goals."
Ferdinand's former Three Lions teammate Frank Lampard was also on BBC punditry duty and shared his enthusiasm about Sterling.
Gareth Southgate's decision to start Sterling was vindicated
(Image: Pool via REUTERS)
Lampard believe's the City man's inclusion should not have been questioned in the build-up to England's opener.
"He turned up. It shouldn't really be a controversial pick, [it's] only because of the other players Gareth could pick in that position," he added.
"But we've seen him do it so many times.
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"And even if he's had a tough period in his club career, when you're a top player, as he is, you really appreciate your manager being with you.
"He's had a bit of a break since the Champions League final, he looks in great shape today, really sharp, really effective from minute one and when you get Raheem in that mood he can do so many things from wide areas.
"When you get him in those central areas he will score goals."