Manchester City want Raheem Sterling to stay & fight for his place

Graeme Bailey
Pep Guardiola wants Raheem Sterling to stay at the club
Pep Guardiola wants Raheem Sterling to stay at the club / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

Exclusive - Manchester City have made it clear to Raheem Sterling that they will not stand in his way if he wants to leave the club, but they would rather he stayed and fought for his place.

Pep Guardiola is a huge fan of Sterling, but following Jack Grealish’s arrival in the summer the former Liverpool man has found playing time increasingly hard to come by, with Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva all seeing action ahead of him too.

Sterling has been limited to just two league starts, which has prompted the England star to admit that he is considering his options and reveal he would be willing to move abroad.

Talks had been ongoing over a fresh contract for the 26-year-old - who has just over 18 months left on his current deal - but they were halted prior to the European Championship and have yet to resume.

Barcelona had previously shown an interest in the summer, and a loan move to Catalonia in January with a view to a permanent deal is something that Sterling is believed to be keen on, and his representatives are pursuing that avenue.

90min understands a host of clubs have already opened lines of communication with both City and Sterling’s camp, as all parties weigh up their options.

However, sources close to the Citizens have said that the next few months will be key for Sterling, and City, in terms of their long-term relationship and whether indeed they have one.

Guardiola is understood to have told City's hierarchy that he does not want to lose Sterling and wants him to compete, and won't hold it against him that he has expressed his desire to leave.

Speaking in his press conference ahead of facing Burnley on Saturday, Guardiola said: "Raheem is our player and hopefully will be an incredibly important player.

"Players complain and always want to play but I can't assure them how many minutes they will play - they always need to speak on the grass on the pitch, not just Raheem but all of them.

"What I want from Raheem and everyone is they have to be satisfied to be here. If that's not the case, he has to take the best decision for him.

"They have to be happy, and they want more time and I understand that, all of them want to play 90 minutes but I can't do it."

Indeed, it is a similar situation to Bernardo Silva, who revealed he was looking to leave in the summer before playing his way back into the first team.

City, though, are working on possible attacking reinforcements in the new year, should Sterling and/or Silva leave the club, and 90min understands that Real Sociedad star Mikel Oyarzabal remains a player they are very keen on.

The 24-year-old has been in superb form for club and country so far this season, scoring seven goals already. City have been watching him closely for more than two years and he would seemingly be a very nice fit in a Guardiola team.

La Real would be loathe to lose their captain mid-season, but the belief in Spain is that this could very well be his last season with the club. His current release clause is just less than £70m, but it is unlikely it would require the full amount to land him.