Raheem Sterling says he paid no attention to Arsenal’s reported interest in signing him this summer and insists he wants to stay at Manchester City for the long-term.
Sterling was linked with a deadline day move to Arsenal as part of a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez, and though Goal understands City did not entertain the offer, there have since been further reports that the London club remain interested in the England international.
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Pep Guardiola has previously ruled out any chance of the Gunners being able to strike a deal, and speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League game with Napoli, Sterling himself has dismissed the notion that he may be interested in a move south.
“I didn’t need to speak to Guardiola because I already spoke to him in the summer about pre-season,” he said at a press conference. “I didn’t have any negative thoughts or anything about it, I just woke up one day with England and didn’t believe a word of it, and I wouldn’t have until I spoke to the manager.
“It wasn’t something that I was worried about because Pep is an honest guy and he would’ve spoken to me before that [if City wanted to sell me], so I didn’t need to worry about it and I didn’t think about it for one minute.”
He added: “I signed for five years. I have two and a half years left and I see myself here, playing football here under a great manager and with a great team, so of course [I want to stay].
“It’s a massive year for me, massive year for the team, I just need to keep building, keep working hard and go to the World Cup on a positive.”
Sterling went on to explain Guardiola’s “massive” influence on his career and insists he needed no assurances over his future when speculation emerged linking him with a move to Arsenal.
Sterling scored his seventh goal of the season for the prolific Premier League leaders in Saturday’s 7-2 demolition of Stoke City and is playing with a level of confidence not always associated with his performances for club and country.
The England international endured a difficult first season at the Etihad Stadium under Manuel Pellegrini after joining from Liverpool in 2015 but he credits Guardiola’s “genius” approach with uncluttering his game.
“He’s been massive for me, especially with basic and the simple stuff,” Sterling added. “He always tries to get you to do the simple stuff at a really top level. That’s the genius thing about him and it works.”
Things have rarely looked as rosy at international level for Sterling as they do currently at City, with some below-par performances and the drawn-out nature of his switch from Anfield leaving him as the target of considerable online vitriol.
Sterling infamously referred to himself as “#TheHatedOne” in an Instagram post during England’s ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign but – in comments that drew a warm look of appreciation from Guardiola sitting alongside him – he told reporters he tends to stay away from social media’s more unsavoury elements nowadays.
“To be fair, my first year here, being really young, I used to always be on Instagram,” he said. “You’ll see stuff pop up and check it out because you don’t know any better. Since I have been getting those negative comments, I realise the best thing to do is not to look at it so it won’t affect you.
“My thing over the last two seasons has been not to look at it and it won’t affect you.”
Indeed, Sterling is focused upon events on the pitch, with his career-best haul of 11 goals in the 2014-15 season for Liverpool already in his sights.
“Something I’ve been trying to improve is scoring more goals, being more efficient and being a bit more clinical,” he added.
“That’s been a massive question mark for me over the last few years and I’m just trying to build as a player. A player in my position needs to be scoring goals more regularly.”