Raheem Sterling admitted he couldn’t win the fight to change Pep Guardiola’s mind on his diminishing role at Manchester City and had to leave as he felt there was a chance he was “wasting time” on his career.
The England international was formally introduced to the media as a Chelsea player at the club’s training ground on Thursday and was asked why he had featured less in City’s big games over the past two seasons. Although Sterling still played regularly for City, he too sat out the games he would have once started, including only a substitute role in both legs of the Champions League semi-final loss to Real Madrid last season. pass.
He said that he and Guardiola were aware of the reasons why the player had been sidelined to some degree at City, but refused to detail what they were. Sterling, 27, said the Chelsea move was the ideal alternative to City. Chelsea had shown interest in him over the last 12 months from Roman Abramovich’s previous ownership.
He said: “I felt my playing time at City was being limited for different reasons and I couldn’t afford to lose any more time. When I look back into the future, I never wanted to look back and see an increase and then a decrease. So I felt like I needed to stay at the same level and a new challenge was needed.”
“I’ve been a regular starter since I was 17 and to reach the peak of my career, not playing regularly was something I wouldn’t accept. My personality is to try to fight and change the scenario but it didn’t come and that was it.”
Asked later if he feared his career would go into decline, he said: “I wouldn’t say a decline. Since playing time is limited, like everything, I’m 27 years old and I know my standards and I know what I bring to a team. I wouldn’t accept anything less.”
He did not elaborate on the reasons why he felt Guardiola’s attitude towards him changed: “I, the manager and the people at the club know exactly what the reasons were,” he said. “I tried to play my football and get over the situation, but it couldn’t be done, so I had to move on.”
“It’s [the diminished role] it was a big surprise. It was a big surprise… a turn of events, all of a sudden. It’s something I had to handle and that’s why I’m here.”
Despite his objection to being sidelined, Guardiola still selected Sterling for the Champions League final against Chelsea in Porto last year, playing 77 minutes before his substitution. However, the data confirms his claim that he was playing a minor role in the biggest European games at City.
In the 2018-2019 season, he played every minute of the four games in two days that City played in the competition. The following season that average dropped to 65 minutes; then 35 minutes in 2020-2021 and 50 minutes last season.
Overall, Sterling’s remarkable consistency meant that he never appeared in fewer than 46 games in a season for seven years in a row at City. That said, his game time minutes are down this season: 3,088 in 47 games. Before that, under Guardiola, his lowest total had been 3,567 minutes in the 2017-2018 season and his highest the following year was over 4,000.
Sterling also addressed the infamous incident at Stamford Bridge in 2018 when television cameras caught him being racially abused by Chelsea fans at the Matthew Harding Stand. The fan in question, who was banned for life by the club, always claimed that he called Sterling “Manc c—” instead of referring to his race. Following the incident, Sterling addressed the media’s contrasting portrayals of black and white footballers and opened up a new debate about racial bias.
Sterling said the incident itself had not occurred to him when he was considering joining Chelsea, although he acknowledged the Instagram post he made afterwards had given him a welcome position on the race debate.
“Yes, I think that conversation opened the door for me personally, in the sense that it made me understand what my true purpose is other than football. Of course, football is my main goal and talent, but the other thing that gives me the most joy… is helping people. So from that incident, I moved away from the racial side and focused more on helping and nurturing young black people.”
When asked about the suggestion made by Stan Collymore that Sterling could even meet and educate the banned Chelsea fan, the player said he wasn’t against the idea. “I have no hatred or malice towards the individual. That’s something I could do right here, right now, or tomorrow. That’s not a problem.
“I think my main focus is to get away from the racial kind of stuff and focus more on nurturing and nurturing young people, like myself growing up, and giving them a map of the world ahead. [To] show them that they can manifest many things if they just take the time and take care of themselves.”
Sterling said Thomas Tuchel had praised his “frankness” and his willingness to run behind defenses. “The most important thing is how I attack the box, and with the full-backs we have here, he said that’s the only thing he wants to see a lot more of.” He said that while both Tuchel and Guardiola put the emphasis on possession, the styles of play they sought to impose were “completely different”.
“They are two different systems, two different styles of play. Here we have a lot of possession, City have a lot of possession… they both want different things. I’m adjusting very well here. It’s the honeymoon period now, but it’s like when you’re very optimistic about something and dream about something, that’s where I’m at.”