Not for the first time, Pep Guardiola was accused of overthinking a big Champions League game as Manchester City suffered defeat to Chelsea in last month’s final. One of the decisions that had City fans concerned from the moment the team sheet dropped was the call to start Raheem Sterling.
The 26-year-old struggled for form last season as Guardiola favoured other options, like Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva. The sight of Sterling in the City lineup for the Champions League final was a curveball and the England international’s performance did little to vindicate the faith of his manager.
It did little to vindicate Sterling’s role at Manchester City in general. With the winger now entering the final two years of his contract, he finds himself at a career crossroads this summer. Talks over a new deal have reportedly stalled and so an exit from the Etihad Stadium is seemingly on the cards.
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Tottenham Hotspur has been mentioned as a potential destination, although a switch to North London would likely only happen in the event of Harry Kane heading in the opposite direction. Wednesday morning brought reports of Barcelona’s interest in Sterling with Real Madrid also believed to be long-term admirers.
This is quickly shaping up to be the most important summer of Sterling’s career so far. After such an underwhelming season for City, he has a point to prove for England at Euro 2020. Not so long ago considered one of the first names on Gareth Southgate’s team sheet, Sterling isn’t certain of his place this summer, such is the competition among England’s wide forwards, but a strong tournament would force some critics to reassess.

Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) im Zweikampf mit Reece James (Chelsea)

Image credit: Getty Images

Until this season, Sterling had been improving year-on-year under Guardiola, at least in terms of his goalscoring numbers. The 2019/20 campaign was the most prolific of his career to date, scoring 20 goals in a single Premier League season for the first time. The two seasons before that saw Sterling notch 17 and 18 respectively.
Staleness has now crept into the winger’s game, though. His confidence has been knocked which has affected his decision-making as a consequence. While Sterling had added a sharpness to his game, that has since been dulled, as demonstrated by a series of wasteful performances last season.
The time is right for Sterling to take on a new challenge, whether that’s at another club in the Premier League or abroad. The 26-year-old has never been one to shy away from a big career decision - look at how he controversially swapped Liverpool for Manchester City six years ago.

Kieran Trippier von Atlético Madrid wurde für zehn Wochen gesperrt

Image credit: Getty Images

Spain would be the best destination for Sterling. Barcelona and Real Madrid, particularly the latter, could both use a wide forward in his mould. The level of creativity at both clubs would surely give Sterling the chance to raise his goalscoring figures even further - imagine Lionel Messi or Luka Modric threading through passes for the England international.
What’s more, a move abroad would present Sterling with the opportunity to absorb new ideas and a new culture. He need only speak to England teammate Kieran Trippier to gain an insight on how a switch to a new country and a new league can revitalise a career that has recently stagnated.
Of course, Barca and Real Madrid are both struggling for cash right now. In that sense, Sterling’s timing could be better - the sport’s current financial depression will limit his options this summer. Nonetheless, if there is a viable route out of Manchester City this summer, Sterling would be wise to pursue it. The next phase of his career will be defined by the decision he makes now.
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