Man City boss Pep Guardiola has responded to comments from his player Raheem Sterling about their upcoming UEFA Champions League opponents Real Madrid.
Sterling, 25, spoke to Spanish outlet AS and confirmed that he is really happy at Man City ‘right now’ but admitted that Real Madrid are a ‘fantastic club’ and waxed lyrical about their famous white shirt.
“Right now I’m at City and I’m really happy. But I say Real Madrid are a fantastic club,” Sterling said. “When you see the white shirt you know exactly what the club stands for, it’s massive. [Rumours of their interest], it’s something that you see all the time, but I’m a City player and I’m enjoying it at the moment, even if things haven’t gone quite planned in the league.
“We now have a massive opportunity in the Champions League. I keep saying Real Madrid is a fantastic club, there’s lovely weather, but I keep saying that I am quite happy at City. I have a contract with City now and I have to respect this. But it’s a fantastic club.”
The photo on the front of AS showed Sterling with a Real Madrid shirt on one shoulder and a Man City shirt on the other.
Guardiola was asked about his response to those comments and if he thought Sterling, or any other players, would be less committed to Man City given their two-year ban from European competitions.
“Players are free to talk and say what they believe and think,” Guardiola said. “We are not hear to tell them what they think. I am sure about the commitment of our players. They have shown it for many years and nothing changes.”
Sterling has returned to training after two weeks out through injury and he could play at Leicester City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as Guardiola’s men aim to open up a seven-point gap to third-place Leicester with a win.
Sterling’s comments are complimentary about Real Madrid and given their reported admiration for him for quite some time, the timing of saying this is a little odd given City’s ban from UEFA and so much uncertainty around the future of the club in the Champions League.
Despite Guardiola committing himself to staying at Man City for next season and until the end of his contract in the summer of 2021, his players will get plenty of offers to leave if the Champions League ban is upheld. Lionel Messi has joked that Barcelona should “sign the lot of them!” when asked about Sergio Aguero and others signing for the Spanish giants.
Sterling isn’t the first or last Man City player who will be targeted by European giants over the next few months as the situation remains uncertain.