Raheem Sterling pinpointed the arrival of Bernardo Silva as a "massive turning point" in his Manchester City career. 

The England international has a combined 56 goals and assists in the Premier League over the past two campaigns, compared to 21 during his first two seasons at the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling puts his improvement down to the signing of Silva from Monaco in May 2017 for a reported £43million, admitting the addition of another wide player forced him to raise his game.

He told The Mirror: "I went back to north-west London. I went to see my friend and he said, 'They've just bought Bernardo Silva.' He was worried for me. And I was saying, 'That's sick, man.' He was really surprised but I thought, 'It's good, it's competition and it brings out the best in me.'

"That was a massive turning point when the wingers came in to push me. It was a good thing.

"At the time, it was only me and Leroy [Sane] and I just knew that it would push me again to do better because I knew there was someone else there. When you're in a team, it's not about ego, it's about raising your game to help the team.

"People had started to doubt me and I began to doubt myself as well and believe what was being said. It wasn't about getting my belief back, but I kind of blocked people out. I was like, 'OK, no problem, I'll show you.'"

Sterling was voted the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year for 2018-19 and was named in the PFA Team of the Year alongside team-mate Silva.

Off the field, meanwhile, the 24-year-old has been hailed as a role model for speaking out on racism and questioning the media's part in the problem.

But Sterling insists he does not see it that way, even if it makes his mother proud.

"People keep saying that," he said. "I don't want to say role model because I don't see myself as one.

"It gives my mum pride, I'll tell you that.

"I don't think I've changed anything, but I've opened up a door for work to be done. That's what I love about this country. People are always listening, people want to do the right thing and I definitely see it as something that has done positively.

"I adore this country because the people here are so loving and so willing to listen to try and do things for the better."

Raheem Sterling warned Manchester City's Premier League rivals the defending champions are eyeing a third consecutive title in 2019-20.

City claimed back-to-back Premier League trophies after edging Liverpool in a dramatic title race, with only one point separating the two teams following 38 rounds.

Pep Guardiola's City have the chance to clinch the domestic treble when they face Watford in the FA Cup final but star Sterling and his team-mates are already thinking about a Premier League three-peat.

"I feel we're always improving, the mentality is always improving and next season will be another massive test for us again," Sterling told the Mirror.

"We've done it back-to-back. What's going to be the motivation now? The motivation has got to be to try and do it again. It's as simple as that. We want to be one of the best clubs in England and in the world of football.

"This is the level that we have to reach every year. It's not just one year and then three years out. Every year you have to be competing.

"It was lovely to retain the title, of course. We knew how long it's been since a team has retained it and it just shows the mentality in the group."

City have already been linked with Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri, Antoine Griezmann and Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt.

"He's ready to go," Sterling said of manager Guardiola. "That's just him. He loves football more than anyone I know! I don't know what will happen in the summer, you can have additions to the squad, you never know what will happen and as a group we're always improving.

"When you have teams who are playing at a high level, then you have to do the exact same. I think that's what next season will be like because I imagine every team, all of the top six teams, will be pushing hard."

Liverpool collected 97 points from 38 games but still missed out in their bid for a first league title since 1990 and former Reds forward Sterling added: "Every time we play Liverpool now, that's when the stadium is at its loudest, the fans are roaring.

"The game against Liverpool at home, I don't want to sound arrogant, but we did say as a group that if we win that game then we can still have a chance of winning this title race. It was a must-win game for us.

"We knew how high the stakes were and you realise this is getting serious now, it's crunch time now and I'm just grateful that we were able to get over the line."

Raheem Sterling explained why he moved from Liverpool to Man City after he picked up the Football Writers' Association Football of the Year award.

Brendan Rodgers says he has always been impressed by Raheem Sterling's drive to be "one of the best" as he prepares to face the Manchester City forward on Monday.

Leicester City boss Rodgers was in charge at Liverpool as Sterling established himself as a star before moving to the Etihad Stadium ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.

That switch made Sterling unpopular with Reds fans, yet he has established himself as one of the Premier League's top players, winning the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year and Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year awards this season.

While Rodgers was sacked at Anfield soon after Sterling's transfer, he is delighted that the move panned out for the England international.

The Leicester manager ranks the 24-year-old as "clearly one of the best players in the world" and revealed this had been a stated aim for the forward from a young age.

"What I loved about Raheem was that, for a young boy, he knew what he wanted to be," Rodgers told reporters.

"When I ask young players what is it they want to achieve, he wanted to be one of the best players in the world - at that age [17]. And that was where he was unique, because sometimes the British players may not have that ambition.

"Off the pitch, he's an incredible kid. He's very loving and supportive of his family. You see a lot of the things that he does, and that's not just now – that's how he was back then as a young boy.

"He had a great base at Liverpool and then went on. He's taken his game to a level where he's clearly one of the best players in the world.

"He's a great talent and a great father as well – he would bring his daughter around to the house to play. He's a really special player and a really great boy."

And Rodgers explained that it was this ambition, rather than financial gain, that led to Sterling's move.

"For Raheem, it was never ever about money," he said. "If it was about money, he could have stayed at Liverpool. It was about being the best he can be.

"And in that moment there was an opportunity to go to Manchester City, where they had top-class players. He's gone in there and developed and become a winner, which is clear to see in his game.

"I look at Pep Guardiola's team and it's not the same if he's not in it. What a testament that is to a young English player."

Raheem Sterling has been named the Football Writers' Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year for 2019. 

The Manchester City star has enjoyed a stunning 2018-19 season for club and country, scoring 17 goals and providing 10 assists in the club's relentless battle against Liverpool to retain the Premier League title. 

City have already lifted back-to-back EFL Cups and Sterling was on hand to score the decisive penalty in February's shoot-out triumph over Chelsea at Wembley, where he returned the following month to net a hat-trick in England's 5-0 Euro 2020 qualifying demolition of the Czech Republic. 

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk beat Sterling to the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year prize on Sunday, with the 24-year-old instead collecting the organisation's young player award. 

But the FWA cited the wider context of Sterling taking a lead in his sport's fight against racism and discrimination over recent months as an additional factor in helping him to garner 62 per cent of member votes. 

"Raheem Sterling is a player of style and a man of substance," said FWA chair Carrie Brown after Nikita Parris made it a Manchester City double by scooping the women's award on the back of 19 goals and seven assists in the Women's Super League this season.

"More than 70 years ago, Charles Buchan, one of the founding fathers of the Footballer Writers’ Association, suggested there be an award presented to the player who by 'precept and example' is considered the footballer of the year. 

"Raheem Sterling is an exemplar of the talent and values our founding fathers sought to reward when they established the FWA in 1947. 

"To have been voted the 2019 Footballer of the Year by our members, and with such an overwhelming majority, clearly acknowledges the contribution from a player over one season but it also recognises the huge impact of Raheem’s courage to challenge preconceptions and fight racism, which will leave a legacy not just for future generations in football but society as a whole." 

The Football Association has welcomed the publication of a new anti-racism manifesto backed by Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. 

England forward Sterling has spoken in favour of the campaign, from The Times, which called for radical changes to be made in football. 

"Up and down the game, across the world, black and Asian players, fans and coaches are subjected to racism," Sterling wrote in the newspaper. "Every day, from park football to the Champions League." 

Sterling himself has been a victim of alleged racist abuse this season, both while playing for City at Chelsea and also for his country during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro, and called for teams to be docked nine-points if their fans are found to be guilty of racism.

The manifesto's demands for change included greater representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people at a governance level throughout football, a consistency of sanctions across different countries and designated sponsorship exposure for anti-discrimination groups.

And the FA has given its backing to the campaign, while giving details of what it is doing to address racism. 

"We welcome the manifesto as it complements and supports much of the work we are already doing to ensure better gender and ethnic minority representation in our game," said an FA spokesperson. 

"The FA wants to create positive change in English football to ensure it better reflects modern society, while helping to bring down barriers and inspire future generations. 

"We agree that there should be radical change at the top. Decision-making in football needs to reflect society and football' s fantastically diverse participants. In 2018, the FA launched its equality, diversity and inclusion plan, 'In Pursuit of Progress' where we set out clear targets, as the manifesto requests, for BAME coaches, employees and leaders." 

A number of incidents in games across Europe this season have led to calls for more to be done when players are targeted by racist abuse during matches. 

"The FA agrees completely with the manifesto's statement that players have a fundamental right to a workplace free from discriminatory abuse," the FA spokesperson added. 

"Currently there is a protocol for players to follow if they hear discriminatory abuse, which is designed to both protect the player and also to ensure that the matter can be investigated immediately and the appropriate steps taken. 

"This can include the referee stopping the game and allowing the players to leave the field of play. We would encourage the protocol to be used rather than a player or players walking off as we believe that this is the best way to remove the burden from players." 

Raheem Sterling believes football chiefs are doing "nowhere near enough" to tackle racism and has called for radical changes.

Manchester City forward Sterling has been a victim of alleged racist abuse several times this season, while in action for his club and on international duty with England.

The 24-year-old has received plaudits for his stand against racism, while players and football clubs boycotted social media for a 24-hour period to protest online abuse on Friday.

Sterling's England team-mate Danny Rose has been another high-profile recipient of abuse, with the Tottenham defender saying he is looking forward to retirement due to the authorities' failure to act. 

In Italy, Juventus youngster Moise Kean was subject to alleged racist chanting in a Serie A match against Cagliari.

And writing in The Times, who have released a manifesto calling for changes to be made throughout football in order to fight racism, Sterling insists the current efforts to eradicate the issue are not up to scratch.

"When I was a boy growing up in London, I didn't know what racist abuse was because I never suffered any," Sterling wrote.

"So it seems crazy that, in 2019, I feel the need to write a piece in a newspaper calling for radical changes to the game that I love. But I do because the racism problem in football is so bad, runs so deep and is nowhere near being sorted.

"You will all have read about the various high-profile racist incidents in recent months: the abuse I received playing for Manchester City away to Chelsea; the booing that the black England players were subjected to in Montenegro; the nastiness that Moise Kean of Juventus endured in Italy and the endless insults thrown at players on social media.

"But that is sadly just the tip of the iceberg. Up and down the game, across the world, black and Asian players, fans and coaches are subjected to racism. Every day, from park football to the Champions League.

"In my opinion, the people who run the game are doing nowhere near enough to solve the problem. And that's not good enough."

Discussing the manifesto, Sterling put forward his ideas, adding: "I'd call for an automatic nine-point deduction for racist abuse.

"It sounds harsh but which fan will risk racist behaviour if it might relegate their team or ruin their title bid?

"The club should have to play three games behind closed doors. That way, they lose revenue as a direct consequence of racist behaviour.

"I don't know how long it'll take for things to change but we have to start now. I don't want the next generation of black players to have to put up with this evil."

Kevin De Bruyne has admitted to thinking Raheem Sterling would be a "d***head" before getting to know his "humble" Manchester City team-mate.

Midfielder De Bruyne and England star Sterling signed for City within just over a month of each other in 2015 and have been at the forefront of the club's successful spell under Pep Guardiola.

But as the Belgium international revealed in a column for The Players' Tribune website, he feared the portrayal of Sterling as "flashy" in some sections of the media would put their personalities at odds.

"Before I came to Manchester City, I didn't really know what to make of this Raheem Sterling guy," De Bruyne said.

"I had never met him, and from what I'd read about him in the English press, I thought he was going to be a very different character.

"I didn't think he'd be a bad guy, really. But the tabloids were always claiming that he was arrogant. So, I guess I thought he'd be... what do the English call it? A bit of a d***head, maybe?"

Sterling, who moved to the Etihad Stadium from Liverpool for a fee reportedly nearing £50million, has often spoken out against his unfavourable depiction in certain news publications.

More recent attention has centred on his campaigning against racial abuse and his star performances in City's push for a second successive Premier League title.

De Bruyne assisted the first of the attacker's two goals in Sunday's 3-1 win at Crystal Palace and revealed their "strong connection" extends beyond the pitch.

"Truthfully, I don't have many close friends - inside or outside of football. It takes me a really long time to open up to people," the former Chelsea and Wolfsburg man said.

"But over time I got closer to Raheem, because our sons were born around the same time, so they would always play together.

"I really got to know Raheem, and I recognised what a smart and genuine person he is. He couldn't be more different from what the tabloids were saying.

"This is the real truth: Raheem is one of the nicest, most humble guys I've met in football."

Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling will continue to take his mother's example of self-worth and respect into football's fight against racism.

Numerous examples of abuse have stained European football over recent weeks, with Montenegro facing a UEFA charge of racist behaviour after Sterling and some of his international team-mates were targeted by supporters during England's 5-1 Euro 2020 qualifying win last month.

Juventus teenager Moise Kean was taunted by Cagliari fans during a 2-0 Serie A win, where he marked a late goal by holding his arms outstretched to the home ultras.

Championship clubs Brentford and Wigan Athletic condemned racist incidents around their weekend matches, while Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha retweeted a Twitter user who called him a "black monkey".

Since drawing attention to an example of unequal media coverage for young white and black footballers last December, in the aftermath of being subjected to an apparent racial slur from a Chelsea fan, Sterling has been increasingly seen as a figurehead in the game's battle to root out racism.

The 24-year-old explained this is not a role he envisages for himself but pledged to continue speaking out when he witnesses injustice and urged fellow professionals to do the same.

"I don't really think I can make a difference. This has been happening since before I was born, since before my parents were born," he told a news conference on Monday ahead of City's Champions League quarter-final at Tottenham.

"I can only speak up about events that happen to me and the people around me. It's about speaking about what you've experienced. Some people have probably shied away from that.

"I'm a person who, when I feel something's not quite right, I want to speak about it and get people to see it from my perspective. I think that's the best way forward.

"If more players do speak up then the better it will be. But I'm not trying to be a leader of that."

And Sterling credits his mother Nadine for giving him such courage in his convictions.

"When I was growing up, my mum told me I'm a wonderful black child. I know this," he said.

"When I hear it, it's nothing new to me. I know I'm black and I'm happy with it, I'm proud. I'm confident with my body.

"At the same time, it's not right. Some people can't take it. But growing up my mum always told me to love myself and who I am."

Sterling expressed sympathy for England team-mate Danny Rose, a probable opponent when City and Spurs do battle at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday, who said last week he "can't wait to see the back of football", in part due to his frustration over the prevalence of racism.

However, Sterling is not in favour of players walking off the pitch in response to racist abuse – an approach advocated by Romelu Lukaku and Yaya Toure, among others. Instead, he considers the satisfaction of scoring and winning to further anger tormentors, as he did in Montenegro, is a preferable outcome.

"I don't want to go into too much detail, but I've heard stories of his past in youth teams and stuff like that," Sterling said of Tottenham left-back Rose.

"It's something he's come across quite a number of times and it's probably getting too much for him."

He added: "I personally wouldn't agree with [leaving the pitch]. To try and go out and win the game when it's going on will hurt them even more.

"They're only trying to get you down. If you do walk off the pitch as a group, that kind of makes them win.

"To score a goal or win the match, I think that's a better feeling that beats them."

Pep Guardiola has hailed an "incredible gesture" from Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City forward gave 500 tickets for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Brighton and Hove Albion at Wembley to children from his old school.

Sterling grew up in Wembley and attended Copland Community School, which is now known as Ark Elvin Academy.

And students will now head to their most famous local landmark to see Sterling in action this weekend.

Ten pupils from the school visited Manchester this week for a tour of the Etihad Stadium before meeting Sterling - and Guardiola offered a glowing assessment of his forward, who continues to grow in stature on and off the pitch.

"It's an incredible gesture, nice," he told a pre-match news conference. "I think these kind of gestures make a better society for everybody.

"Football players are human beings. We live all together and these kind of gestures dignify who he is, the club and everybody. I like it."

Sterling's generosity was not the only ticketing item on the agenda for Guardiola, after City failed to sell out their allocation for the semi-final.

A 17:30pm local-time start, limited late public transport provision back to Manchester, three London matches in the space of eight days and the overall expense of City's fourth trip to Wembley this season have all been cited as factors in the relatively limited uptake.

"Really, honestly, I don't know the reason why, " Guardiola said.

"Maybe the club could answer this question better than me. Always I am alongside the fans, not just our fans.

"When they can go, they will go. When they cannot, they don't go. Maybe for different reasons. Honestly, I don't know."

Raheem Sterling urged UEFA to take "a proper stance" against racism by issuing Montenegro with a stadium ban after he and England team-mate Danny Rose were allegedly targeted by monkey chants in Podgorica on Monday.

England ran out impressive 5-1 winners in the Euro 2020 qualifier, but the match was overshadowed by apparent racist abuse, with Sterling appearing to react while celebrating the fifth goal.

Manager Gareth Southgate claimed Rose was targeted after picking up a yellow card in second-half stoppage time, while Callum Hudson-Odoi said he heard "monkey stuff".

UEFA has often been accused of not punishing incidents of racist abuse harshly enough, and Sterling was mindful of that when demanding European football's governing body comes down hard on Montenegro.

When asked by Sky Sports if a stadium ban should be issued, Sterling said: "Yeah, it's got to be something that serious for them and make them think twice about ever doing something like that again.

"I can only, we can only, the FA can only do so much. We've got to leave this to the people in charge to make a proper stance on it.

"Just banning one or two people is not going to change anything, you've got to make [an example] – even if it was our fans, I'd be saying the same thing.

"The people in charge need to actually do it [punish] as a whole, the whole [of the] Montenegro fans. I don't know, I'm not the one who makes the rules, but they've got to do something that makes a real stance.

"It's 2019 now, I keep saying it. It's a shame to see this still going on. We can only bring awareness to the situation.

"It's now time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it. You can fine someone, but what's that going to do?

"You've got to make it harder, you've got to punish the whole [group of] fans, [so] that [they] can't come to the ground.

"You've got to do something to really make them think twice, because if their team can't play with fans, it means it's going to be difficult for them, so it's got to be something to make them think twice about."

Gareth Southgate believes star forward Raheem Sterling has the qualities to captain England in the future.

Sterling has established himself as a key man for the Three Lions and is enjoying a rich vein of form, netting a hat-trick against the Czech Republic on Friday after scoring twice in Spain late last year.

The Manchester City talisman is also acting as a mentor for young prospects Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi, while he was widely praised for commenting on perceived racial discrimination earlier this season.

England boss Southgate has seen enough to know that, should the side be without skipper Harry Kane, Sterling would be ready to step into a leadership role.

"We've had three or four players captaining the team, and Raheem is developing lots of the qualities those guys have," Southgate told reporters ahead of Monday's meeting with Montenegro.

"He has those qualities. It's difficult to talk about a potential captain when the captain [Kane] is in the hotel waiting to go out for dinner, but in terms of his personal qualities, he's shown some outstanding personal qualities."

The Three Lions manager has already introduced Sterling to the team's senior leadership group, explaining: "In between November and March, observing his maturity and influence, I felt that would be a good step for him.

"I think when you speak to other young players, he's one of the first they speak about making them feel really comfortable in the environment. That was a really important move for him."

Harry Kane praised Raheem Sterling's development after the Manchester City winger scored a hat-trick in England's 5-0 win over the Czech Republic on Friday.

Sterling opened the scoring at Wembley and added two more goals after Kane converted a penalty in first-half stoppage time as the Three Lions made a superb start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Tomas Kalas' 84th-minute own-goal wrapped up a hugely satisfying outing for Gareth Southgate's men ahead of their second Group A fixture against Montenegro on Monday, and Kane said Sterling's goals showed how much he has honed his poaching instincts.

"He is incredible," Kane told Sky Sports. "He is a great a player and so humble as well. He just wants to work hard and get better.

"You have seen him full of confidence out there. Great first goal - getting in the six-yard box. That's where most of the goals are scored so he has learned that over the past two-three years now playing for club and country.

"It's great to have him in this form, it's great to play with him and hopefully he can do it again on Monday."

Kane was also full of praise for Jadon Sancho, who completed the hosts' front three, and underlined the importance of goals coming from all areas of a team that has often relied heavily on his finishing abilities.

The Tottenham striker has scored 21 goals in 36 England appearances but Southgate handed Sancho his first competitive start against the Czech Republic while giving Callum Hudson-Odoi a debut from the bench as he broadened his attacking options.

"In a team, to be successful, you need your front three - all of you scoring or assisting and midfielders nicking goals as well and that's the way it's going to be," said Kane.

"We have got players who are good enough to do that. Players who want to express themselves."

It was the sense of inevitability that really showed how far Raheem Sterling has come.

When the livewire Manchester City forward twisted the yard of space he needed inside the Czech Republic box and drew back his weaker foot, Wembley expected.

Sterling whipped an unerring finish past visiting goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka for his second of the night. A deflected hat-trick goal sealed a dominant 5-0 win for Gareth Southgate's team, who are threatening to turn the World Cup wave they rode last year into a relentless, rolling tide across international football.

Russia 2018 gave England fans a batch of new heroes and a number of unquestionable success stories. Ranking alongside Pep Guardiola as his harshest critic, Sterling would not have put himself among that number.

His tireless, intelligent running made him a nightmare for defenders in all six of his tournament appearances, but the goals would not come. A couple of botched chances in the quarter-final win over Sweden had something of a rabbit-in-headlights quality. The openings looked as much a burden for his twisting, skilful frame as they were opportunities to be the hero.

England's general drop-off whenever Sterling was substituted in Russia underlined his importance to the cause, but a forward failing to score will always divide opinion. His first 45 England appearances brought two goals.

But on Friday at a national stadium a stone's throw from his childhood home, Sterling was a sure thing, as had been the case in the EFL Cup final here last month.

Then, a nerveless Sterling dispatched the decisive penalty to give City shoot-out glory against Chelsea. He was a reliable difference-maker, a match-winner par excellence. Unfortunately for the Czech Republic, this is now a role he revels in for club and country.

England's 24th-minute opener came from the sort of close-range finish Sterling is close to making his trademark. Harry Kane and the effervescent Jadon Sancho pulled the away defence apart and their fellow attacker slid home.

"Tap-in merchant" will be the cry from the ever-thinning band of detractors, but everyone would be doing it if it was that easy. Sterling's reading of the game is razor sharp, his movement judicious and never far from an opponent's weakest point.

A panicked mess of a back four combined to send him tumbling in first-half stoppage time, with Kane effectively sealing the points from the penalty spot.

Sterling had ripped open a team set up for stubborn resistance. After the Czech Republic threatened in an attacking sense early in the second half, he administered the finishing blows before resting up on the bench as Callum Hudson-Odoi became England's youngest competitive debutant and brought about an own goal of the slapstick variety from Tomas Kalac.

When he celebrated that second goal – the one where he had beleaguered defenders and the Wembley masses in the palm of his hand – Sterling unveiled a shirt paying tribute to Damary Dawkins, the 13-year-old Crystal Palace youth-team player who tragically passed away earlier this week following a battle with Leukaemia.

Not for the first time over recent months, Sterling the man was every bit as impressive as Sterling the footballer. He has become the symbol of an England side with an adoring public that has responded emphatically to Southgate's demands for maturity and expressiveness.

The Sterling who arrived in Russia to diligently carry out a brief of the hard yards was an excellent footballer and a Premier League champion. Now, he is so much better. He is a superstar and an inspiration.

Raheem Sterling would be a worthy winner of any player-of-the-season awards, according to England captain Harry Kane.

Sterling has enjoyed a superb campaign with reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, scoring 19 goals in all competitions and netting the decisive penalty as Pep Guardiola's team retained the EFL Cup with a shoot-out triumph over Chelsea at Wembley.

Kane and Sterling are set to combine in England's forward line for the opening Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro over the coming week, before they take their places on either side of a Champions League quarter-final showdown between Tottenham and City.

"Raheem has had an amazing season again," Kane told a news conference at England's St George's Park training base. "They've won one competition, they're still in all the others and Raheem has been a big part of their success so far.

"He's a great lad, great player and I'm looking forward to playing with him in the games for the next week or so.

"He'll definitely be in with a shout for player of the year."

Despite established City and Liverpool contingents in Gareth Southgate's squad as a nip-and-tuck Premier League title race reaches boiling point, Kane insists focus on international matters is unwavering for last year's World Cup semi-finalists.

"Obviously we've had a bit of banter and stuff. I think the great thing about this team and this England camp is we have a bit of fun and a laugh and a joke," he said.

"But we know that when we're here it's all about England and we put that to one side. Even with the Liverpool and the City boys, when we're here it's 100 per cent England.

"When we go back I'm sure there'll be a couple of text messages and group messages flying about.

"We've got a great bond here and we're good friends, whether we play for one club or the other. We all get on very well.

"When we're at our clubs it's 110 per cent to try and beat each other but we have that respect where we can talk after and be friends."

Tottenham had threatened to play a part in a three-horse title race for large parts of the season but a run of one point from their past four top-flight games has dropped them back into a scrap for the Champions League qualification places.

Nevertheless, with the long-awaited move to their new stadium finally arriving after the international break, Kane is relishing the fight ahead.

He added: "It's going to be a tough battle. The top six are so strong now. We're three points clear [of Arsenal in fifth] in the top four. It's in our own hands.

"If someone had said third place and the quarter-final of the Champions League, with everything that's surrounding the club, it's not a bad position to be in so far."

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