Sterling was Guardiola’s man for the big occasion but his performance in Porto summed up his season

Raheem Sterling was Pep Guardiola’s man for the big occasion but a flat display in Porto summed up his season… his career at Manchester City is fast approaching a crossroads

  • Raheem Sterling’s role as Guardiola’s man for the big occasion did not come off
  • And his performance on Saturday night was almost symbolic of his campaign
  • A tame effort on goal when he had other options clearly angered the City boss
  • He has two years left on his contract and City may listen to offers this summer 

Once upon a time, reading the words Raheem and Sterling on Manchester City’s team sheet would hardly have registered.

Times have changed, however. The surprise his selection here at the Estadio do Dragao generated pre kick-off indicative of the situation he finds himself.

Sterling’s role as Guardiola’s man for the big occasion has diminished in recent months.

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling battles for the ball with Chelsea's Reece James

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling battles for the ball with Chelsea’s Reece James

Prior to Saturday night, he’d not started a Champions League clash since the last-16 second leg victory over Borussia Dortmund in March, a tie they were leading 2-0 from the original game.

It’s hardly a fall from grace; his 47 appearances this season – 38 as a starter – not numbers that necessarily point to someone playing a peripheral role.

His 14 goal and nine assists aren’t to be sniffed at either. Yet it’s emblematic of the stratospheric standards Sterling has set himself that this season – at least personally – will be viewed as an underwhelming one.

Indeed, Sterling’s performance in Porto was almost symbolic of his campaign. Excellent in parts, disappointing in others,

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola encourages Sterling during Saturday's final in Porto

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola encourages Sterling during Saturday's final in Porto

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola encourages Sterling during Saturday’s final in Porto

His arrowing run through the heart of Chelsea’s rearguard had Thomas Tuchel’s heart fluttering, Edouard Mendy and and Reece James just about sniffing out the danger after Ederson’s long pass played Sterling through.

Yet later in the first half his tame effort on goal from the edge of the box when he had alternative options had Guardiola throwing his hands up in disgust.

A misplaced pass that sparked a dangerous Chelsea counter attack was met with a near identical reaction.

Unthinkable as it sounds, City maybe willing to listen to offers for Sterling this summer. His career at the Etihad Stadium is approaching a crossroads.

He has entered the final two years of his contract, the risk of losing a footballer who, in a normal market is worth in-excess of £100million, for nothing a scenario not worth contemplating – even for a club with the cushion of Emirati wealth.

Sterling was replaced by Sergio Aguero in the 77th minute as City chased an equaliser

Sterling was replaced by Sergio Aguero in the 77th minute as City chased an equaliser

Sterling was replaced by Sergio Aguero in the 77th minute as City chased an equaliser

The logical outcome would be for Sterling to re-sign – but even that road appears riddled with potholes.

Would City give him a substantial pay rise on the £300,000-per-week he already earns, particularly given his current status within Guardiola’s plans?

Would Sterling want to stay for that very reason? Equally, if he were to go – who could afford him?

The fact Sterling was handed the captain’s armband following Kevin De Bruyne’s premature substitution in Portugal was indicative of his standing within the squad.

But for how much longer? At the age of 26, the former Liverpool forward is entering his peak years; there’s still so much to come for a man who has already achieved so much.

Does he stick or twist?

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