MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 3 – Pep Guardiola challenged in-form Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling on Monday to improve his game even further, despite his sparkling form for club and country.
Sterling has recently been rewarded with a new five-year contract, worth a reported £300,000 ($382,000) a week, by the Premier League leaders and is currently enjoying the best form of his career.
He is the Premier League’s joint-leading English scorer, his eight goals matching Harry Kane’s tally after the weekend games, and is joined by two others on top of the assists table.
But Guardiola says his star cannot rest on his laurels and warned Premier League rivals that there is far more to come from the 23-year-old.
“He can do better,” said the City boss on Monday. “We are so delighted with what he’s done in three years but he can do better.
“He can be more consistent, his first touches, receptions, many things. Definitely — I’ve said many times we are delighted but he can do better.”
Guardiola, speaking ahead of his side’s trip to Watford on Tuesday, leapt to the defence of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who has faced criticism for his celebrations after his team’s late victory over Everton on Sunday.
The German may yet face FA action for sprinting onto the pitch but Guardiola, who was similarly criticised for his response to a late win against Southampton last season, can understand his actions.
“I did it, against Southampton,” said the City manager. “There’s a lot of emotions in those moments. I know when I did it I was not happy to have done it.
“So I can understand (Everton manager) Marco Silva, (then Southampton manager) Mauricio Pellegrino when it happens.
“But sometimes it is what it is and it’s an emotional game, everything happens in your mind. I talk from my side, you have to be respectful of the others.”
– Pep backs VAR –
Guardiola has also welcomed the announcement that European governing body UEFA will introduce VAR for the knockout stages of the Champions League this season.
City felt decisions went against them in last season’s quarter-final defeat to Liverpool, especially when Leroy Sane had a goal ruled out in the tie at the Etihad.
“I welcome the news, I’m delighted with it,” said the City manager. “The Premier League is the last one (to adopt VAR) and sooner or later it will happen.
“This season, our second goal against Shakhtar was a ridiculous penalty. It’s so we don’t have to talk about it or to talk about last season versus Liverpool.
“Now with VAR, we are looking to make better football, better decisions. Most of the time, not always, the ref will do a good job. Everyone makes mistakes and they’ll be helped by it and it will be good.”
Sergio Aguero and Alexander Zinchenko face late fitness tests before City travel to Watford. Kevin De Bruyne is not yet ready to return to the first team.