The future of Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has been the subject of debate as he enters a pivotal moment in his career with several options over where he will play his football next season firming up
Raheem Sterling is facing the biggest dilemma of his career this summer.
And as one of England’s most important players, the Manchester City forward’s determination to further his career should be admired. This is not about Sterling angling for a big-money move, a huge foreign deal or even a mega contract in a record breaking transfer to a Premier League rival.
Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona are all watching developments but this is not a transfer saga with a player looking to start a bidding war. This is all about Sterling – at 27 in the peak years of his career – getting the minutes he craves to push himself as a player, to improve and also be at his best for the World Cup this winter.
The fact of the matter is that Sterling did not start in City’s biggest games towards the end of last season. Not in either of the Champions League semi finals with Real Madrid or on the final day of the season against Aston Villa. That has undoubtedly raised alarm bells with a player who has a year left on his current contract as to whether he is still at the center of Pep Guardiola’s plans. City boss Guardiola has insisted that Sterling is a big player for his squad, he wants him to stay and commit to a new deal.
There is no doubting his value to the squad as Sterling came on against Villa on the final day, he helped turn a game that City were losing into a victory and his input and quality was crucial to help Guardiola’s men get over the line and clinch a fourth title in five years. But if Sterling is a bit-part player in the months before England’s World Cup campaign in Qatar, that will be a major concern not just to Gareth Southgate but the player himself. This is a player who always delivers for England on the big stage. He was England’s best player in last summer’s Euros and you can make a case that he is more important for his contribution even than Harry Kane.
Sterling is quick, decisive but also a scorer of big goals in big moments and a leader on and off the pitch. The England star should be one of the first names on Three Lions boss Southgate’s team sheet – but also knows that he will be under threat if he is not playing regularly and goes to Qatar out of his club side. Sterling has one year left at City on his £ 300,000-a-week contract and City are keen to extend. It would be so easy to stay, sign and take the money, especially as moving to any other club in England would be a step down from Guardiola’s all-conquering team.
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But there is new competition there in the face of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and now Erling Haaland’s arrival has meant an even bigger squeeze on places in attack. It might be hard to imagine City selling to a Premier League rival in Chelsea who are keen to make a statement, stellar signing to mark the arrival of new owner Todd Boehly. Especially when City might lose him for a cut-price deal as he has one year left with people discussing £ 35m.
Sterling has never hidden his desire to play abroad in the future and Real Madrid have been keen and have stepped up their interest in recent weeks. Barcelona is an interesting one because they were keen to take him in January but now face financial issues and must offload players before they can bring others in. It will be a very interesting month ahead for Sterling and his future may be the biggest story of the transfer window because he is one of England’s biggest stars.
Inevitably, there will be memories of his move from Liverpool to City in 2015 when he was insistent back then it was not about money but furthering his career. When you look at how it has played out, it is hard to argue against it. Now, at the heart of this transfer saga is once again Sterling looking to better himself, maximizing his ability and potential. And that is something to be applauded rather than criticized.