RAHEEM STERLING is destined to become one of the world’s greatest players.
And Pep Guardiola reckons all he has to do is keep his mind on the job and just let it all happen.
The Manchester City boss already sees him as being right up there with the best he has worked with — including a certain Lionel Messi.
And Guardiola would love to tie Sterling down to a new contract that would be worth a staggering £122.5MILLION for the next five years if he were to sign now.
Ahead of today’s blockbuster showdown with Liverpool at the Etihad, Guardiola declared: “He is one of the most fantastic players I ever had in my career as a boss.”
But he is convinced Sterling, 25, can become better still, stressing: “My advice to him is don’t think about this. It makes no sense.
“Just enjoy life and focus and destiny will dictate who he is as a player. For him to go further now, it just depends on his performance.
“I’m pretty sure of his mentality and desire to win and improve. And he deserves a lot. All the credit to him.
“I wish in three, four five years that he will be a much, much better player than he is today.
“He is a better player now than when he arrived and, hopefully, in four years he will be better than he is now. It is just a process.”
It is thanks to his manager’s belief in him that City chiefs are hoping Sterling will finally put pen to paper on a new deal that has been on the table for a year.
He already earns £300,000 a week on a contract that runs until 2023. But he can take that figure up £450,000 a week by agreeing to stay for two more years.
The fact Guardiola himself said last month he would like to stay longer — his City contract is up next summer — should help Sterling make up his mind.
He is understood to have wanted to know what his manager’s plans were before further committing.
Now Guardiola has also publicly reminded him of how much he appreciates his skills.
His gushing praise could not come at a better time for him as he prepares to take on the club he left under a cloud five years ago.
With his physicality, he plays all the minutes… there will be a moment when he takes a rest but in this moment he is so important for us.
Liverpool fans have never forgiven the man they still call a “snake” for deserting them in his controversial £49m move.
Sterling has never quite coped with that stick, having scored only twice in 13 games against the Reds since leaving — and been on the losing side in seven of those.
City cannot afford another poor result today with Jurgen Klopp’s champions looking to open up an eight–point lead on them.
Yet Guardiola has become more reliant on Sterling, especially in the absence of crocked Sergio Aguero.
The Argentinian’s deputy Gabriel Jesus also missed six weeks with a leg injury, although he came off the bench to score in Tuesday night’s 3–0 win over Olympiakos.
Sterling has started in ten of City’s 11 games this season — playing in all but 16 minutes of them.
Pep knows he is pushing him in an already labour–intensive campaign.
And this week he joins up with Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the second international break since the season started.
Guardiola added: “With his physicality, he plays all the minutes and he will be there again for us and then for England.
“Of course, there will be a moment when he takes a rest. But in this moment, he is so important for us and we need him.”
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