Raheem Sterling. Credit: Getty.
Raheem Sterling has cast further doubt on his Manchester City future by admitting he “would be open” to a move elsewhere.
This comes as speculation continues to mount that the winger is being monitored by several clubs, and as rumours continue that contract negotiations have broken down with City.
At ManchesterWorld, we’ve had a look at Sterling’s current predicament and how the situation could pan out over the coming months.
What has Sterling said?
Speaking at the FT Business of Sport US summit on Thursday, Sterling said: “If there was the option to go somewhere else for more game time I would be open to it.
“As an English player all I know is the Premier League and I’ve always thought: ‘You know, maybe one day I’d love to play abroad and see how I would come up against that challenge’.”
“I’m not a person that’s going to complain. I’ve not tried to make it a bigger deal than it actually is. I get on with my work, do what I need to do, and I’m just raring to go. [Ready to be] playing football matches regularly. Scoring goals regularly.
“If football for me is not at a certain standard I’m not really at my happiest. If I want my happiness at a certain level I need to be playing football. I need to be scoring goals and enjoying myself.”
Where could Sterling move to?
As we reported in our latest transfer round-up, Sterling has been heavily linked with Barcelona, rumours which will only further increase following his comments about playing abroad.
Meanwhile, the Express have said the 26-year-old could end up at Newcastle United, Arsenal, Liverpool or Real Madrid.
Why has Sterling lost his place in the side?
Despite the reports of him seeing less game time, Sterling has actually played 10 of the club’s 11 matches in all competitions this season. In fact, no City player has featured in more games than the No.7.
However, when it comes to minutes on the field, the only attack-minded players who have seen less game time are Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, both of whom have been injured for large parts of this campaign.
Sterling has only started four games this season and played the full 90 on just two occasions, one of those coming in the League Cup clash against Wycombe Wanderers.
Yet in Guardiola’s defence, Sterling’s numbers have dropped drastically over the last year. This season, Bernardo Silva is the only City attacking midfielder or forward who has registered a lower goals and assists per 90 tally than Sterling, and the Portuguese has played a slightly more withdrawn role this term.
The former Liverpool man also has registered 0.09 expected assists per 90, a figure which is significantly increased by his appearance against League One side Wycombe.
Excluding that game, Sterling has scored once this season - in a 5-0 victory over Norwich City - and has yet to register an assist.
There’s also the issue of Jack Grealish’s arrival and what message that sends. Spending £100m on a player who prefers to operate in the same position as you isn’t ideal, and Phil Foden also seems to enjoy playing from the left wing, as he demonstrated with his excellent recent performance against Liverpool.
The emergence of these two stars has seen Sterling pushed inside more and he’s actually played centrally in 2021/22 more often than out wide. And he simply hasn’t looked comfortable in that centre-forward role, as his lack of goals and assists attest to.
Our view - “read between the lines, guys”
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out exactly what Sterling was implying during Thursday’s speech. “I’d love to play abroad” - aka, “Real and Barca, I’m ready”. “I’m not a person that’s going to complain” translates to “but I could if I wanted to”.
It will be interesting to see how this impacts Sterling’s playing time in the coming weeks and whether Pep Guardiola will appreciate his player vocalising his frustrations so publicly.
Grealish’s dip in form and Foden’s versatility means there’s still a spot for Sterling off the left wing, although the recent injury to Ferran Torres may indicate the attacker will spend more time up front in the weeks to come.
There’s also the issue of Sterling’s form. In truth, he has little to complain about in being dropped, his performances this season simply haven’t been up to scratch for a title-winning side. This also isn’t just a temporary slump - his showings last season were at the same level, which caused so much debate about his place in the England side prior to Euro 2020.
It’s easy to forget just how phenomenal Sterling was only a few short years ago, when he scored 31 in 20219/20. He was selected in the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament over the summer, was voted FWA Footballer of the Year in ‘18/19 and has won eight major honours with City.
Sterling needs to get back to that level, or his future does indeed seem to lie away from the Etihad, although suggestions Barcelona or Real Madrid can afford a significant fee for the winger do seem rather fanciful given the clubs’ on-going financial problems.
Despite that, with less than two years to run on his current deal Sterling certainly does have options and his recent comments show he’s willing to push on that initiative and secure a move away from the club he’s just begun his seventh season with.