Pep Guardiola fears a fight to keep Raheem Sterling after admitting the £100 million-rated Manchester City and England winger’s fine form has put him firmly in demand.
Sterling is due to enter the final two years of his existing £180,000-a-week contract this summer.
City want to extend his deal and are prepared to offer a substantial pay rise but Sterling’s impressive displays have caught the attention of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris St-Germain.
Sterling’s valuation could soar again if he thrives for England at the World Cup finals in Russia and Guardiola is aware the 23 year-old – who has scored 20 goals is all competitions this term – is increasingly sought after.
“No doubt, it is so important [to keep Sterling]. But the deals are the deals. The agents, circumstances, maybe other clubs are interested in him,” the City manager said ahead of Saturday’s trip to Everton.
“In terms of contracts I’m not the guy, it’s Txiki [Begiristain, the director of football] that is talking about that.”
City will clinch the title against rivals Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium next Saturday if the club match each other’s results this weekend. It is a far cry from City’s previous visit to Goodison Park in January last year when they suffered a humiliating 4-0 loss – the heaviest league defeat of Guardiola’s managerial career – and the Catalan admitted he had feared the worst if results did not improve.
“In that moment I thought that could happen, that it doesn’t work and at the same time I thought, OK, if next season it’s not going well, if it’s the same then Txiki or Ferran [Soriano, the chief executive] or the other people would decide, ‘OK, Pep, you are not good enough with those players to do what you can do and change’.
“I am not saying that because now we are in this position. I said last season many times when I was asked, I am going to insist [playing this way]. Of course if it’s not going well and we are not winning, you think, ‘What do we have to do?’ That is normal. All the managers think the same when they don’t win.”
Guardiola said he would make a late call on whether to involve Sergio Aguero against Everton after the striker suffered a knee injury three weeks ago that forced him to miss the Stoke game as well as Argentina’s friendlies against Italy and Spain. City are unlikely to take any chances with the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool on Wednesday. “He is much better. We will see [on Saturday],” Guardiola said.
John Stones could miss the Everton game after being substituted in England’s 1-1 draw against Italy on Tuesday with concussion. Fellow defender Benjamin Mendy is edging closer to a first-team return after the cruciate knee ligament injury he suffered last September but Guardiola was unsure whether the Frenchman would be available against United.
“He’s much, much better, the last week to 10 days he’s been training with us, but it’s a long injury. He is making the progress. I don’t know [if he will be back for the derby]. I can’t anticipate it.”