Raheem Sterling has thanked Pep Guardiola for giving him a new lease of life after claiming his game was being choked by former Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
The winger has been a revelation for Manchester City under Guardiola, and after notching five goals and six assists in just nine appearances so far, has become a key performer for the club.
Sterling had initially been written off as a flop after his first season at City following his big-money move from Liverpool.
However, the 21-year-old has laid part of the blame at the feet of Pellegrini, stating he was never fully able to express himself working under the Chilean.
“It was really difficult because I didn’t feel I could play my natural game [under Pellegrini],” he told the Mail on Sunday.
“Everyone was two-touch kings. The whole training session was based on two touches. I wasn’t able to dribble. I like to dribble and I like to have fun and take players on.
“But you can’t do that with two touches. Sometimes, the way it works is that what you do in training sessions is what you do in the game. You get in a habit.”
Sterling on Guardiola
It has been a very different picture this season, and Sterling was firm in his belief that Guardiola is to credit for his vastly improved form, saying the Catalan freed him.
“Coming in this year, it’s been different,” he continued. “I had five minutes with Pep and he showed me on the board where he wants me to be and what he wants me to do and he said the rest was down to me.
“He said with my ability I needed to get at my defenders, try to make crosses and score and as soon as I lose the ball, get back into position.
“Against West Ham, I scored a goal and he wasn’t happy because I didn’t go at my full-back as much as he wanted and I had lots of opportunities.
“It’s a great challenge because he wants me to be more direct with my running and get at players because he wants me to create as many chances as he can and score goals.
“I feel I have more freedom to express myself now. I’m not going to lie about that – I feel much more free. When I get the ball, I have the authority to be myself and try to create chances.”
Klopp on Sterling
Such has been the form of Sterling this season, Jurgen Klopp recently expressing his shock at Liverpool selling Sterling to City for “just £49m” last summer.
“The most important thing is that it’s the past,” Klopp said when questioned about Sterling’s form this season.