Raheem Sterling reveals desire to leave Manchester City and play in Europe

Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling has told the Financial Times of his desire to leave the English Premier League champions, setting up what could be the sport’s next potential blockbuster transfer.

In an interview at the FT’s Business of Sport US Summit in New York on Thursday, the 26-year-old striker was asked about a lack of recent playing time in the side led by renowned Spanish coach Pep Guardiola.

“If there was an opportunity to go somewhere else, I’d be open to it at this moment in time,” he said, before suggesting he would prefer moving to a club in France or Spain.

The comments reveal frustration at not being considered a regular starter at City for several months, and came during a sprawling conversation in which the player also discussed his leading in role the England national team during this summer’s European championships, as well as the racist abuse faced by black English players.

But it is Sterling’s declaration on a potential move that will gain most attention. One of the Premier League’s stars, he signed for City in 2015 from Liverpool for a transfer fee of £49m, a record for an English player at the time. Sterling’s existing contract with City ends in 2023.

His availability is likely to command interest from many of the world’s biggest clubs, but a move may prove difficult at a time when the sport’s multibillion-euro transfer market has been depressed as teams cut back spending on players.

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The continent’s clubs have collectively suffered revenue shortfalls worth €8bn during the pandemic because of lost ticketing and broadcasting revenues, according to the European Club Association, the body that represents more than 200 leading sides.

Top Spanish clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have responded to the financial crisis by conducting a fire sale of players this year. France’s Paris Saint-Germain, which is owned by the Qatari state, has retained its huge spending — signing the likes of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, but also appears well stocked with attacking talent.

But Sterling said: “As an English player, all I know is the Premier League. I’ve always known that maybe one day, I would love to play abroad and see how I would come up against that challenge.”

He was a key fixture in the the England men’s team that reached its first major final in 55 years at this year’s Euro 2020 competition. Sterling credited the progress on the relaxed mood created by head coach Gareth Southgate, but also a less combative relationship between players and the media over recent years.

“That’s been the biggest issue with the national team for many years,” he said. “We’ve [built] that bridge now to a point that its enjoyable to come [to the England camp], you’ll see people from the press and it doesn’t feel like there’s anyone out to get you,” he said.

Sterling, however, criticised politicians who did not defend the team for “taking the knee” before matches to protest against racism. Before the Euros, UK home secretary Priti Patel dismissed the act as “gesture politics” and defended the right of fans to boo it.

After three black England players missed penalties in the shootout in the final against Italy, a match England lost, they were subject to a torrent of racist abuse online.

“It should be a case where you see a situation happening that should not be allowed to happen,” said Sterling. “I feel like when you mention racist abuse, it is not taken as seriously as other topics.”

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