Raheem Sterling compares Man City and Liverpool FC trophy success
The 24-year-old has come a startlingly long way since an acrimonious move down the M62 four years ago that saw him criticised by some fans and certain sections of the media as his motivation of wanting to win trophies was either doubted or dismissed.
But the former Liverpool star has risen to the challenge in a way few either outside or inside at the Etihad saw coming to become immovable from one of the best sides English football has ever seen, with 35 goals and 21 assists helping the Blues to back-to-back Premier League titles.
The seven winners’ medals are more than enough to justify Sterling’s move, yet Jurgen Klopp has also engineered a resurgent Liverpool and just a fortnight had passed on City’s unprecedented domestic clean sweep in May when the Merseyside club emphatically broke their drought as they claimed their sixth European Cup.
Sterling, as you might expect unless you were taken in by the slights, was delighted for his old club. At the same time, though, the man who is increasingly the perfect Guardiola pupil prefers the grit to the prestige.
“For me, what we’ve done last season – every day, week in week out – was exceptional. It was a massive stepping stone to have belief in our squad, that belief we’ve been building over these last couple of years. Since the manager has come in we’ve got stronger every year. The Champions League is massive for us as a club but our most important thing is winning the Premier League.
“That’s our main objective going into this season. Yes, it’d be nice to win the Champions League but first and foremost we want to win the league.
“The Premier League is your bread and butter, every weekend, what you train for every day. The Champions League is the nicer looking one, the most prestigious as people say, but every weekend you put in a shift.
“You’re going to tough places – you’re off to Crystal Palace, Burnley – it’s tough you know? You put so much time into it.”
Even if the Champions League remains the elephant in the room for the Blues as their best run remains one semi-final appearance under Pellegrini, a team that has bent the Premier League to their will in a way barely seen before is looking for a different kind of dominance.
No English team had ever reached 100 points before until City did in 2018; nobody had successfully defended the league for a decade until City did in 2019, smashing 98 points: so what comes next?
If Sterling and his teammates have their way, for all the glamour of the Champions League their priority is to make sure that by May 2020 it will no longer be accurate to say that Sir Alex Ferguson’s United are the only club to have won three consecutive league titles.
“We know it’s going to be difficult. It’ll be harder than last season,” said the forward. “To do this three times in a row is a massive challenge for us. It’s a challenge we’re definitely up for. We’re getting our work in now, getting our fitness up, and we’ll be ready for the Community Shield against Liverpool. We want to be up and ready.
“You go in wanting to win it, but to win it twice in a row you’ve got to be mentally prepared to fight again and again. Teams like Liverpool, all these big clubs, will try and take titles off us. We want to keep winning for as long as possible.”