Raheem Sterling has spoken out over his situation at Manchester City, revealing he would be open to a move away if he does not get assurances about playing time at Etihad Stadium.
It’s a bold move but not an especially surprising one, as Sterling has become a bit of an outcast and the January transfer window is coming up.
But the truth is that Pep Guardiola picks his team on form, not sentiment, so will feel no obligation to guarantee Sterling a place in his side.
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The frustration has been boiling since the back end of last season for Sterling, when he began to be left out of the team. There were signs since then he was not considered as important to the future of the squad too, with indications that he was available for transfer over the summer if a good offer had landed.

Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City speaks with player Raheem Sterling during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City

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City do not stand still and no man is deemed irreplaceable.
Their failure to land Harry Kane means they have been playing without a traditional central figure this term, and so far it has been a strange campaign in terms of assessing their front players.
Riyad Mahrez is their top scorer with four goals but he has started just one Premier League match and two of those strikes came in the Carabao Cup against Wycombe Wanderers.
Sterling’s playing time has been hit so heavily from last term, when he started 28 Premier League games, that he has admitted he would be open to new options.
“If there was an opportunity to go somewhere else, I’d be open to it at this moment in time,” he told the Financial Times this week.

Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez

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This term he’s become a bench player, starting just twice. At the same stage last season he had barely missed a minute.
Meanwhile Bernardo Silva, who was looking for a transfer in the summer, has started six times and has to be considered one of their most in-form players.
These players have played significant roles for Guardiola in recent seasons yet it is possible all three are reaching the end of their time in Manchester as the squad evolves once more.
Ferran Torres has often taken the central forward role that most of us thought would be shared between Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, following Sergio Aguero’s departure. Meanwhile Jack Grealish has seen more minutes on the field than any other attacking player, joined by Jesus - who has occupied a wide role and has played so well that Guardiola has been picking him regularly for a spot on the right side.
With Phil Foden also in the mix and continuing to be seen as the brightest star for the future, City certainly have an array of options. Yet they cannot keep everybody happy and there is still that longing feeling that they are missing a natural, instinctive goalscorer.

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 28: Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City gives instructions to Bernardo Silva of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on September

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City have scored 14 goals in the league and six in the Champions League, all of which came in a win over RB Leipzig. So while finding the net is not a huge issue, a boost of confidence would not go amiss.
Sterling has one goal to his name, Grealish and Foden have two each, while Torres and Jesus have three in all competitions.
A fixture against Burnley this weekend is the perfect opponent for City’s attacking rotators to boost confidence, push themselves up the scoring charts, and stake a claim for a future role.
City’s last four home games against Burnley in all competitions have finished 5-0. Torres is injured and Jesus travels back late from international duty with Brazil but it’s safe to assume the rest of the forward line - particularly Sterling - will be chomping at the bit for a piece of the action.
They will want to show their worth, yet we also know that Guardiola has been plotting ways to adapt his attack.
In the back of his mind there is the prospect of signing Mikel Oyarzabal from Real Sociedad. City have been tracking him for some time as director of football Txiki Begiristain is a huge admirer of the player and is keen to bring him in.

Oyarzabal Real Sociedad-Rayo Vallecano

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Oyarzabal, 24, has six goals from eight games in La Liga this season and has a release clause worth around £67 million.
He’s not a central player, he plays off the flank, and if Sterling or Mahrez or anyone else feels frustrated enough to push for a transfer in the new year, it’s likely Oyarzabal would be seen as a future replacement.
Deep down, Sterling wants to become an integral part of the team again but will seriously begin to consider his next career step if that does not happen. City has been great for him but at the age of 26 he does not want to slow down.
There were signs of this coming towards the back end of last season when he was being left out of the team and there were whispers of disagreement with the boss.
Sterling has always had an open mind to one day listen to offers elsewhere, particularly abroad, but will also be in the sights of Premier League teams. Arsenal enquired about him in the summer and newly-rich Newcastle United will be keen.

Raheem Sterling (England)

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Mahrez, too, will have a decision to make but he was not the subject of much serious interest last summer, despite the club reportedly being open to offers.
Portugal international Silva is still understood to remain keen to leave City, as he does not feel at home in Manchester and would prefer to return to mainland Europe, where he has previously played for Benfica and Monaco.
Torres, Foden, Grealish and - it seems, now - Jesus are big players for this team moving forward and there is that big question of the No.9 that still needs to be answered.
They looked into signing Cristiano Ronaldo before he opted to return to United but do they try for Kane again?
Word out of the club is that a new bid is not expected to happen, so perhaps Erling Haaland comes back onto the agenda.

Dortmund's Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland reacts during the German first division Bundesliga football match Borussia Dortmund vs FC Union Berlin on September 19, 2021.

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This week it was reported his representatives would speak with City officials in January and that is not a surprise. Both Manchester clubs have been asked to be kept in the loop on his situation in terms of leaving Borussia Dortmund and will get their opportunity to make another pitch before he makes a final choice over his next move.
City are determined not to stand still, they want players to know they must always be at the top of the game, and there are very few in the current squad deemed priceless.
There will always be respect for players that have helped them climb to the top of the mountain but if the form tails off, pretty much anyone could be sold.
That is certainly true of Sterling and as he heads into the game against Burnley this weekend, this feels like a pivotal moment in his City career.
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