Messi, Ronaldo... Sterling? Manchester City star targets goal-rush to join football's elite

By Dom Farrell 1 April 2017 227
Messi, Ronaldo... Sterling? Manchester City star targets goal-rush to join football's elite

Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling believes adding more goals to his game can take him to the pinnacle of world football.

Sterling has enjoyed an encouraging campaign under Pep Guardiola at City, with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss granting him an abundance of attacking licence on the right-hand side of a three-pronged attack.

Heading into Sunday's Premier League trip to Arsenal, Sterling has nine goals in 38 appearances across all competitions, including the winner in December's reverse fixture.

It is a number two shy of his career-best season but one he knows must be improved significantly if he is to mentioned in the same breath as the best players on the planet – company the ambitious 22-year-old is keen to place himself in.

"I should have so many more goals. It's terrible. I should be on about 15-16 goals right now and that's what I need to do to get to the player I want to be," the England international said in an interview with the Guardian.

"Goals can help lift me to be one of the best two or three in the world, most definitely.

"You score the goal that wins the football match five, six, seven times a season - you are one of the best in the world. And that's what I need to do.

"I need to keep being consistent. I know I'm joking and laughing here – but I take that very seriously.

"Next year I'm getting there, 100 per cent. But this year I've got enough time to get a few more goals – it's just one of those, you need to start scoring goals. I'm putting too much pressure on myself at times."

Runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea have disappeared into the distance and City find themselves in a keen battle for a top-four spot in the Premier League – something the weekend showdown with an Arsenal side they also face later this month in the semi-finals of the FA Cup is likely to have a bearing upon.

As such, the jury remains out on Guardiola's start to life in England, but Sterling has little doubt over the positive impact the Catalan's style has had upon his performances.

"I'm probably playing a bit more direct, once I get in the final third I make an action, use instinct," he says.

"Before I was a bit more slow, I tried to mix it up. Now I'm just going at it 100 per cent. Before I was trying to be silky.

"It's just the way we’re playing under the manager."

Guardiola is the coach most closely associated with Lionel Messi's development into an all-time great and Sterling insists the dream of being considered one of the world's best is never far from his mind.

"[I think about it] every day – every day," he added. "I'm not going to sit here and say I don't. That's my aim.

"I'm not here to be a number. I'm here to be one of the best, as simple as that. I just need to raise my game – I know exactly what I need to do to go where I want."

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Dom Farrell