Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said he’s “completely sure” about the commitment of his players after Raheem Sterling hinted he could be open to joining Real Madrid “in the future.”
Sterling, 25, gave an interview with Mario Cortegana of AS and was read an old quote of his, where he suggested “everyone's dream growing up” is to play in a sunny country. Asked if he’d like to represent Real one day, Sterling laughed and replied:
"How do I answer that one? Is the camera live or is it just taking pictures? No one knows what the future will hold. I am a player and I am always open to challenges but right now my challenge is at Manchester City. In the future, hopefully, who knows…"
The winger added he’s enjoying his football with City “at the moment,” despite the defending Premier League champions falling 22 points behind incumbent leaders Liverpool. He also praised the “winning mentality” of Real boss Zinedine Zidane but specified he’s “quite happy at City.”
Guardiola, 49, was calm in his response when asked about Sterling’s quotes in a press conference on Friday:
"The players are free to talk and say what they think. We are not here to tell them what to say.
"I am completely sure about the commitment of our players. They have shown it for many, many years. No one knows what will happen, but right now the commitment for the last three months, every single game, I don't have any doubts."
The topic of player futures at the Etihad is especially pertinent after City were served a two-year ban from the next two Champions League campaigns. UEFA announced on February 14 that the club had been suspended from the competition and fined $32.5 million (€30 million) for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations, though City will appeal the decision through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Guardiola began his senior managerial career with four hugely successful years at Barcelona, and it could be a killer blow if one of his most valuable stars were to one day join former nemesis Real.
Sterling—who has scored 20 goals in 35 total appearances this season—has a contract at the Etihad until 2023.