Manchester City will step up their attempts to secure Raheem Sterling to a long-term contract following his goalscoring return to Pep Guardiola’s team. The Premier League champions are ready to reject offers for the England forward amid interest from clubs including Barcelona.
Sterling has scored in his last three City appearances after losing his automatic starting place earlier in the campaign and showing his best form in international football during the European Championship in the summer and World Cup qualifiers.
While Gareth Southgate views Sterling as indispensable to England, the 26-year-old has been made to wait for his chance at City this season and is yet to start consecutive Premier League games but has seized his chance following a muscle injury for Jack Grealish and Phil Foden’s slight ankle problem ruling him out against Paris Saint-Germain.
Sterling has previously put contract negotiations on the backburner while he concentrates on winning his place back in Guardiola’s team, with a new deal there to be signed if the former Liverpool forward wants to revisit.
He has one full season left on his existing terms and City tend not to let contracts run down for players in the peak of their careers like Sterling, then agreeing year-to-year deals with club legends such Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho towards the end of their careers.
Allowing Sterling to leave the club, particularly during the next transfer window in January, is not part of City’s plan for Sterling, not least because they lose Riyad Mahrez for a period of the season as he defends the African Cup of Nations title with Algeria.
While Sterling has been limited to four Premier League starts this season, his situation is being monitored at Barcelona, where new manager Xavi Hernandez is an admirer and would look to bring him to the Nou Camp if available and affordable to a club who have been hit by financial problems.
Should he come onto the market, it would be conceivable that the biggest clubs would look at a deal for one of the stars of the last Euros. Liverpool Echo columnist John Aldridge wrote an article including the headline why his “return can’t be ruled out”, despite his determination to leave for City six years ago. At the Etihad Stadium he has won three titles and Premier League rivals on the other end of his match-winning performances know his capabilities.
His equaliser against PSG added to goals against Everton and Club Brugges in his last City matches, ending a run of 10 weeks without a goal. Former City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, working for the club during the PSG win, believes Sterling is returning to his best form.
“Raheem will be Raheem – he is back scoring goals now and the way he took the goal against Everton last weekend was a striker’s finish,” Wright-Phillips said. When I ever had a dip in form, I went back to basics. You go back to Raheem starting to dribble at people and create chances for himself.”