Where does Raheem Sterling’s future lie after Guardiola admission?
Man City are set for another trophy-laden season, but one player that has played a decreased role in this campaign’s success has been Raheem Sterling.
City boss Pep Guardiola confirmed that the form of Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez has placed the pair above Sterling in his hierarchy, but insisted it is far from over for Sterling at City.
“Raheem is an extraordinary player – he was, is and will be,” he told reporters ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final.
“The reason why he has not played as regularly as in previous seasons is because Phil and Riyad are in top, top form. That is the only reason.
“Opportunities are going to come and he has to be ready to show his quality, freshness in his mind and to play with the incredible strength he has.”
Raheem Sterling’s first 100 Man City goals
After scoring a career-high 20 league goals last season, Sterling is set to have his least prolific season since his first two City campaign’s, currently sitting on nine goals in 27 games.
Sterling has been criticised of late for a lack of quality in his passing and build-up play, with Foden and Mahrez preferred due to their ability to create and keep the ball circulating.
That said, Sterling does have six assists this season, far more than just the one from 2019/20. His passing accuracy of 86% is his equal highest in a season since joining the Citizens.
That could be taken one of two ways – either it’s a positive and shows he is keeping the ball well, or it shows he is playing more low-risk passes than before and is failing to keep City going on the front foot.
By comparison, Mahrez has nine goals and four assists in around 300 less league minutes, while Foden’s seven goals and five assists have come in less than 700 minutes than Sterling.
Sterling, Mahrez and Foden in the league this season
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While perhaps a premature link, it does bring in questions of Sterling’s future. At 26 years old, Sterling’s prime years should still be ahead of him but he is not the wonderkid that he once was.
With Foden only going to continue to get better with more time and City believed to be in for a new striker, next season could be a make-or-break campaign for Sterling at the Etihad.
Throughout his career he has been linked to Real Madrid and they have been brought up again with Sterling finding himself challenging for minutes.
But Guardiola’s insistence that opportunities remain and that Sterling is not bothered by the pressure will likely deter any links from other clubs.
“The quality is there and it is not a conversation where he doesn’t have confidence. After talking to me, he has confidence,” Guardiola said of Sterling.
Sterling will be focused on Sunday night’s League Cup final against Tottenham before wrapping up Premier League success, chasing Champions League glory and the Euros with England will all emerge on his agenda.