This summer, Raheem Sterling faces the most difficult decision of his career.
And, as one of England’s most important players, the Manchester City forward’s ambition to advance his career is admirable. This isn’t about Sterling pursuing a big-money transfer, a major overseas deal, or even a mega contract in a record-breaking transfer to a Premier League competitor.
Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Barcelona are all keeping an eye on the situation, but this is not a transfer story with a player wanting to create a bidding war.
This is all about Sterling, who is 27 and in his prime, receiving the minutes he needs to develop himself as a player, grow, and be at his best for the World Cup this winter.
The truth is that Sterling did not start any of City’s crucial games near the conclusion of the season. Not in either of the Champions League semi-finals against Real Madrid or the season finale against Aston Villa.
That has surely prompted concerns among a player with a year remaining on his current contract about whether he is still at the centre of Pep Guardiola’s plans.
Guardiola, the manager of Manchester City, has stated that Sterling is an important member of his squad and that he wants him to stay and sign a new contract.
There is no denying Sterling’s importance to the group. When he came in against Villa on the last day, he helped transform a game that City were losing into a triumph, and his input and talent were important in helping Guardiola’s side cross the finish line and win their fourth trophy in five years.
However, if Sterling is a bit-part player in the months leading up to England’s World Cup campaign in Qatar, it will be a big source of concern for both Gareth Southgate and the player himself. This is a player that consistently performs admirably for England on the international stage.
He was England’s finest player at the Euros last summer, and you might argue that he is more essential for his contribution than Harry Kane.
Sterling is quick and decisive, but he is also a big-goal scorer in big moments and a leader on and off the field.
The England star should be one of the first names on Three Lions boss Southgate’s team sheet, but he also knows that his place will be jeopardised if he does not play regularly and travels to Qatar with his club team.
Sterling has one year remaining on his £300,000-a-week deal at City, which the club wants to extend.
It would be so simple to remain, sign, and take the money, especially because transferring to any other English club would be a step down from Guardiola’s all-conquering squad.