Guardiola's 'genius' inspiring Sterling at Manchester City
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling has hailed Pep Guardiola as a "massive" influence on his career and insists he needed no assurances over his future when speculation emerged linking him with a move to Arsenal.
Sterling scored his seventh goal of the season for the prolific Premier League leaders in Saturday's 7-2 demolition of Stoke City and is playing with a level of confidence not always associated with his performances for club and country.
The England international endured a difficult first season at the Etihad Stadium under Manuel Pellegrini after joining from Liverpool in 2015 but he credits Guardiola's "genius" approach with uncluttering his game.
"He's been massive for me, especially with basic and the simple stuff," Sterling told a news conference ahead of City's Champions League Group F clash with Napoli on Tuesday.
"He always tries to get you to do the simple stuff at a really top level. That's the genius thing about him and it works."
Sterling detailed a strong bond of trust between himself and his manager, one that came through links to Arsenal around the transfer deadline unscathed.
The 22-year-old was mentioned as a potential makeweight in any deal to take Alexis Sanchez from Emirates Stadium to Manchester - rumours that Guardiola strongly refuted - but Sterling never entertained the possibility without word from his boss.
"I didn't need to speak with him. I already spoke to him in the summer about pre-season. I didn't have any negative thoughts about it," he explained.
"I woke up with England one day and saw it. I didn't believe a word of it. If I'd heard something from the manager then I would believe it.
"It wasn't something that I was worried about because I think Pep is an honest guy and he would have spoken to me before that. I didn't need to worry about it and didn't think about it for one minute."
Things have rarely looked as rosy at international level for Sterling as they do currently at City, with some below-par performances and the drawn-out nature of his switch from Anfield leaving him as the target of considerable online vitriol.
Sterling infamously referred to himself as "#TheHatedOne" in an Instagram post during England's ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign but - in comments that drew a warm look of appreciation from Guardiola sitting alongside him - he told reporters he tends to stay away from social media's more unsavoury elements nowadays.
"To be fair, my first year here, being really young, I used to always be on Instagram," he said.
"You'll see stuff pop up and check it out because you don't know any better. Since I have been getting those negative comments, I realise the best thing to do is not to look at it so it won't affect you.
"My thing over the last two seasons has been not to look at it and it won't affect you."
6 - Raheem Sterling has scored six goals in his last six Premier League games, more than in his previous 31 combined (5). Form.-- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 14, 2017
Indeed, Sterling is focused upon events on the pitch, with his career-best haul of 11 goals in the 2014-15 season for Liverpool already in his sights.
"Something I've been trying to improve is scoring more goals, being more efficient and being a bit more clinical," he added.
"That's been a massive question mark for me over the last few years and I'm just trying to build as a player. A player in my position needs to be scoring goals more regularly."