Guardiola plays up importance of holding on to Sterling
Forward excels in opening day defeat of Arsenal but has yet to agree new terms
Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the Premier League match against Arsenal. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola has underlined his desire to keep Raheem Sterling at Manchester City, despite talks over a new contract remaining on hold, after the England forward excelled to ruin Unai Emery’s first Premier League game in charge of Arsenal.
Sterling’s representatives had opened talks on a new deal before the World Cup finals this summer, the player having enjoyed an eye-catching season in scoring 18 league goals to help City secure the title, only to postpone those discussions before the tournament.
The forward earns about £170,000 a week on a contract that expires in 2020, and while talks over improved terms have yet to resume, with the player apparently seeking nearer £300,000 a week, Guardiola has made clear his desire that an agreement be reached with the 23-year-old.
The England forward was outstanding despite having been back in training for less than a week after his exertions in Russia and scored the opening goal as Arsenal, under new management, were swept aside at the Emirates. “For the record, I’m not a sports director, not even a manager. I’m a trainer,” Guardiola said. “I try to make a good team spirit in the locker room and win games. But we are delighted with him and would like Raheem to stay. We’ll do our effort to make him feel we count on him. And we do count on him.
“We arrived after a difficult season [in 2016, when Guardiola had made a point of contacting Sterling during Euro 2016 to offer his support], and I told him I wanted to help him and would like him to be happy. In the end the agents may not have agreements and that may not happen. But he knows and his agent knows we like him and want him a lot.
“People only judge players on the goals they score at the World Cup, but Raheem has this special relation with English football. He’s so loved in the locker room. He did some very good things in the World Cup, moving well and creating space for others. He’d liked to have scored a goal and he tried to, but I’m sure in the European qualifiers he will score goals for his country.
“He trained just one week but we needed him today, and he did so well except when he was very tired at the end. His mum and dad gave him a special body shape: he’s small, tiny, so these kind of guys in one week are ready.”
While Guardiola suggested this fixture, with Arsenal keen to impress under Emery’s stewardship, had been “complicated”, his side’s relatively comfortable victory served early notice of their intent to retain their Premier League title. Bernardo Silva added a second goal just after the hour, and the host side, whose approach was rather chaotic at times, ended up well beaten. There was an admission post-match from Emery that it will take time for his team, who finished 37 points adrift of the top last term, to bridge the gap to the champions.
“Manchester City’s performance showed us we have to continue our process to improve,” the Spaniard said. “They deserved this result. Today was very hard. City demanded our best performance, but we saw we have to work. We know this was only the first step in the process. City have been working for two years with Guardiola, building a team with good players and great stability, playing the way they want. And we are just starting.
“But I am happy with the players. They ran and they fought. Also we have to continue working tactically and defensively to make shorter [the gap] between Manchester City and Arsenal. In the second half we took more risks when we had the ball, we broke up their lines and went forward and created more chances in the match. We finished with the spirit I want. But I want these 90 minutes to help our process.”