Raheem Sterling’s prospects of securing a move to Barcelona in the January window have suffered a potential major blow.
The signing of Jack Grealish has seen the 26-year-old being marginalised by Pep Guardiola this season. From being an automatic pick, Sterling has started only three Premier League games this term, with nine outings in total. The winger has been given the nod to start just once in the Champions League, with three more appearances off the bench.
It is all a far cry from his previous six seasons with the Citizens. He was a regular starter and has scored 79 top-flight goals for the Etihad giants. As such, a report last week suggested City had placed a lowball figure on his head were he to secure a move.
That has, understandably, caught the attention of a series of suitors. Arsenal have long been rumoured to be keen, but it seems it is Barcelona who are leading the charge.
Indeed, reports this weekend claimed Sterling had made a move to Catalonia his No 1 aim. As such, the Daily Mail reported that Sterling was ready to push Guardiola to let him leave were his game-time not increase over the coming weeks.
However, a big admission from Monday’s Sport claims Barcelona’s hopes of landing Sterling appear over before they have begun.
They state Barcelona have been tracking Sterling for months and were in talks with City over a deal in the summer. It’s stated that Guardiola had given Sterling permission to make the move, but only if a deal for Harry Kane was secured first.
But with City failing to strike a deal with Tottenham for the England captain, Barca’s Sterling hopes were also ended.
They remain very on his trail, however, with new manager Xavi a confirmed fan.
However, with finances still extremely tight at the Nou Camp, Sport claims they have only one way of financing a deal. To that end, they state they can only offer Sterling a six-month loan move to Catalonia.
And due to their perilous financial situation, they would be unable to commit to the ‘obligation to buy’ deal City are seeking.
Sport write: ‘Barca are only willing to negotiate a transfer with a on-mandatory purchase option until June. Depending on the performance of the footballer, the club could exercise this option that would be above 50million euros.’
As stated, they would look to include an ‘option to buy’ clause in the deal. However, as noted, they report that City are unlikely to agree to that. With his contract up in summer 2023, City want certain guarantees over his exit to ensure they are not left out of pocket.
That will likely leave Sterling frustrated in his efforts to leave City for Barcelona. In an interview for the Financial Times Business of Sport, the winger indicated a move abroad is of interest.
“If there was the opportunity to go somewhere else for more game time I would be open to it.
“Football is the most important thing to me, [with the] challenges that I have set myself from a young age and dreams to go abroad as well.
“As an English player all I know is the Premier League. I’ve always thought one day I’d love to play abroad — see how I would come up against that challenge.”
City would consider a straight swap deal involving midfielder Frenkie De Jong, but that is seemingly out the question for Xavi.
Sterling talks at a standstill
As it stands, Sterling will have just 18 months left on his deal by the time January rolls around. And with talks over a new deal seemingly at a halt, City will reportedly listen to offers.
Indeed, Guardiola recently responded by challenging Sterling to “make a phone call” if he’s seeking a move away.
And earlier this week, Guardiola confessed that it is tough for any player to ignore the advances of the Catalans.
“The city, the club, the history and this for the coaches, for the players, always seduces a lot,” he said. “If Barcelona are interested in our player, they will start the machinery, it is transatlantic. Barcelona, in the good and the bad, can do what they want.”