Pep Guardiola says he wants Raheem Sterling to fight for his place at Manchester City, as the disappointed forward admitted he would be “open” to leaving the Premier League champions. England forward Sterling has been with City since 2015, when he departed from Liverpool, and has won three Premier League titles with the club.
However, the 26-year-old has made only two league starts this season, battling fierce competition from his form and club records including attacking stars including Phil Foden and the signing of Jack Grealish.
Speaking at the FT Business of Sport US summit on Thursday, Sterling, who has been linked with a loan move to Barcelona, said: “If there was an opportunity to go elsewhere (for more game time), I would be up for it.” This would have happened on time.
“As I said, football is the most important thing for me – the challenges that I set myself from a young age and also the dreams, to play abroad.”
But Guardiola told reporters on Friday he wanted Sterling to stay with City.
“Rahim is our player and will hopefully be an incredibly important player for us,” he said.
“Some players want to play all the time but I cannot assure them about that. He always has to speak on the grass – not Rahim, all of them.
I want to be happy with Rahim and for everyone.
Despite some of his debut, Sterling, whose deal with City runs through 2023, said he would not walk into Guardiola’s office to demand more playing time.
Sterling, who starred for England at Euro 2020, could be in line for a rare start against Burnley on Saturday after City winger Ferran Torres suffered a leg fracture while playing for Spain in the Nations League.
Guardiola revealed he expects the forward to be sidelined for three months.
There have been reports that Torres played against France in the final against Italy in the Nations League semi-final against Italy after suffering an injury.
But Guardiola denied how the player was handled by his national team.
“Injuries can happen here, at home, in national teams. it happens. I know the manager of Spain (Luis Enrique), he treats Ferran as best as possible.”
“He doesn’t want him to get injured. They try to care but sometimes it happens.”
City will also be without Brazilian pair Ederson and Gabriel Jesus for Saturday’s match, as both played for their country against Uruguay on Thursday.
Guardiola said he did not know whether he would be available for Tuesday’s Champions League match in Bruges.