Raheem Sterling. (Reuters Photo)
Raheem Sterling hasn’t had the best of seasons. He knows it. Admits as well. The Manchester City winger, though, remains an integral part of Pep Guardiola‘s side and is now one win away from winning a historic treble with the club.
In this exclusive interview with TOI on a video call, the England star explained what the UEFA Champions League trophy means to him and the club.
Having won three Premier League titles in the last four years, how important is it now for Manchester City to win the UEFA Champions League?
Coming into the season, the Premier League was always our focus, the main aim, and we have achieved that. Now we have a chance to win the most glamorous prize in club football. Yes, it’s a big target for us and hopefully we can do that.
Is the Champions League trophy an obsession?
City is a club that is looking to build on its history. In recent times, we are doing that. Of late, the Champions League is something that we want as a club. We are really determined. It’s a competition that I set sight on ever since I came to this club. One of the ambitions was to win the Champions League and now we have an opportunity to do that.
You have missed some big games in the Champions League, notably the quarterfinals and semis. Does that worry you ahead of the final?
The manager decides who plays and who doesn’t and sadly, I was one of the players (who didn’t play). At the end of the day, the team is in the final and we have a chance of winning it.
Are you happy with your form this season?
I could be better in a lot of aspects, but a lot of things come into play in a football season, lot of things that fans and you guys (media) do not see. You would never understand. At the same time, everyone has their opinion on my season. At the end of the day, if you look at the team, even in the last couple of months with the games that I have missed out, I am still (among the) top two/three goal scorers in the team. Missed out on some vital games which as a player is disappointing. But at the same time, I am nowhere near the level I know I can be. At the same time, in our season I am (the) one who is still producing the most goals.
How do you look at Chelsea FC, a team that defeated City twice this season? Will those results have any bearing on the final?
We were disappointed to lose those two games. But this is a final. Things are completely different. You don’t need any motivation than being in the final and being able to get your hands on the Champions League. Those two games go out of the window. We focus on getting the job done.
If City emerge champions, it will be the third trophy this season. That would be incredible. But did the players think of a historic quadruple?
Yes, of course, it’s something you hear but the most important is not to read too much into it. We have a chance of winning (another) trophy. It’s the Champions League final and we will get three. That will be an amazing season.
City did not have the best of starts in the Premier League and were struggling till December. How did the turnaround happen?
Like every season, there are ups and downs. As a team, you come together to try and overcome that. We have done that as a group. We grinded out results and we are now in the position where we are.
Can you explain the role that Guardiola has played in making City the best team in the world.
The structure at a football club never works without a good manager. He’s a manager who wants to win (games), wants to win trophies. Winning one in a season is not good enough, he wants to win another one and that’s the mentality you need.
Sergio Aguero will leave City at the end of the season. How difficult will it be for anyone to step into his boots?
He’s a club legend. He’s done so much for this football club, won so many important games. The amount of trophies he has won in the last couple of years for this football club is truly remarkable. He is one of those players who will go down in history at this football club, and in years to come people will talk about him, like they are today. He’s a legend. (For someone) To come in and try to replace him and fill into his shoes will be quite a big one.
Personally, what would a Champions League triumph mean to you?
To win a Champions League will be a great accomplishment. As a kid you watch the league, and to be involved in one and have the possibility of winning one, you don’t need any more motivation than that. The Champions League is something that is missing from my time at City. That’s something me and the whole team would want to get hold of.
How would you sum up your last five years at City?
Trophies, trophies, trophies.