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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Arsenal move was not on Raheem Sterling's mind during transfer window

England international says intention was always to stay put at Manchester City

Raheem Sterling is grateful to Pep Guardiola for helping raise his game at Manchester City. Jason Cairnduff / Reuters
Raheem Sterling is grateful to Pep Guardiola for helping raise his game at Manchester City. Jason Cairnduff / Reuters

Raheem Sterling has revealed he never gave a moment’s thought to leaving Manchester City when Arsenal tried to sign him at the end of the transfer window.

Arsene Wenger was interested in the winger when he left Liverpool for City in 2015 and Arsenal proposed a part-exchange deal when City tried to buy Alexis Sanchez in the summer.

“I didn’t think about it for one minute," Sterling said, however. "I didn’t have any negative thoughts. I didn’t believe a word of it until I spoke to the manager. I didn’t need to worry about it.”

The England international believes he is at the Etihad Stadium for the long term and credited manager Pep Guardiola for his improvement.

“He always tries to get you do the simple stuff at the top level and that is genius because it works,” he added.

Sterling is the Premier League’s second-highest scorer with six and has the best goals-per-minute ratio in the division.

But prolific as he has been, Sterling has still been overshadowed by Kevin de Bruyne, who Guardiola believes produced his best display for City in Saturday’s 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City.

And the manager feels the Belgian has to help his side win trophies to be ranked as Europe’s finest footballer.

“If you want to be considered one of the best, you have to win titles and we are here to help him achieve that,” he explained. “The best is just one but he is one of the best.”

Guardiola nevertheless argued it is unrealistic to expect De Bruyne to reach the heights scaled by his former Barcelona charge Lionel Messi.

“It would be a dream for me,” he added. “I would love not only Kevin but all the players I have in the past to get to the level of Messi. It would be a massive thing for my teams because we would win a lot of games.

"But I don’t want to put pressure on. Kevin is an outstanding, amazing player and a humble guy. But I don’t help comparing him with Messi. Messi is apart. He scores 60 goals every season for eight or nine years.”

Guardiola shrugged off the Napoli president’s attempt at mind games ahead of Tuesday night's Uefa Champions League clash between the Premier League and Serie A leaders. Aurelio de Laurentiis had suggested manager Maurizio Sarri would rest players ahead of Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash against Inter.

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The City manager responded: “I believe it? Absolutely not. I can announce which [Napoli] players will play. I believe they are a really good team but if the president prefers to hear they are a disaster team I can say that as well.”

Guardiola says Napoli are one of Europe’s finest footballing sides.

“I love many, many things about a Sarri team,” he elaborated. “I like to watch Napoli when I am sat at home. The things they do, they do perfectly. They make high pressing and to amazing build up in the middle.”

He highlighted the dynamic front trio of Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon as particular threats in a side who have a 100 per cent record in Serie A. City could become more potent still if Sergio Aguero figures for the first time since breaking a rib.

It is England’s top scorers against their Italian counterparts. “I am sure it will be a fantastic game,” Guardiola said.

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