What do Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling have in common? Aside from the fact they would be picked last on the playground for a game of basketball, these 5ft-somethings stand tall on a podium of Pep Guardiola‘s greatest goalscorers.
Messi takes gold, obviously. He scored a grand total of 138 league goals under Guardiola. You might think Aguero would then take silver. You would be correct, with 82 to his name, but he is not alone.
Joining Aguero on 82 is Sterling, whose perfect hat-trick against Norwich on Saturday took him level with his former Manchester City team-mate. Not bad company the 27-year-old is keeping.
Raheem Sterling netted a hat-trick as Manchester City beat Norwich 4-0 at Carrow Road
The 27-year-old took his goal tally to 82 under boss Pep Guardiola, level with Sergio Aguero
Sterling fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Angus Gunn’s net for the opener
In the absence of Jack Grealish – the £100million man having flared up an old shin injury in training – Sterling tormented Norwich down the left.
He got the ball rolling by using his right foot to score a scorcher into the top corner.
As soon as Kyle Walker’s cross fell to him, he knew to cut inside and shoot, and that was Sterling at his best – when he is operating on instinct.
He followed up that super strike with a header, and then came his chance to take the ball home when referee Andre Marriner awarded City a late penalty.
Sterling’s right-foot spot-kick was saved by Angus Gunn but he buried the rebound with his left, making it a ‘perfect’ afternoon.
It was only in November when there was talk of the winger leaving City because he was unhappy with his lack of game time.
Word was a loan to Barcelona was in the offing. Sterling stayed and knuckled down, though his £300,000-a-week contract is set to expire next year.
Guardiola wants the club to tie him down to a new deal, though says he does not get involved in the negotiations himself.
‘Nobody doubts how important it is,’ said the City manager. ‘If we count the number of games he has played since we are together, it’s a lot. He’s a key player. In the future I don’t know what is going to happen. The club will decide. In contracts I can give my opinion but the club takes the decisions.
‘I’ve known Raheem for six seasons. During that period there are highs and lows, problems, it’s part of life. These are not honeymoons. Always there are problems, we have to solve them. It’s important to see the next chapter, next games, next moments. Be positive and try to do it.’
The England international is now expected to sign a new deal to remain at Manchester City
Pep Guardiola was delighted with his forward’s contribution at full time on Saturday afternoon
It does not get much more positive than a perfect hat-trick, and yet it is never guaranteed you will start the next game under Guardiola.
The City boss wanted to stress that point after this 4-0 win and ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Sporting Lisbon.
‘Nobody has the guarantee,’ Guardiola said. ‘I try to handle the squad in the best way possible to win games but especially for the harmony. Nobody here is untouchable. Not even me. Nobody.
‘The club is above and beyond all of us and what I’m looking for, not just myself but my staff, is to win games and impress the people who travel five, six hours by car or train to see us.’
Sterling filled the void left by £100million star Jack Grealish, who was out with a shin injury
This ended up being such a straightforward win that the superstars on the substitutes’ bench – among them Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Joao Cancelo, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte – got to stay wrapped up with their hot water bottles.
Instead, Guardiola brought on three teenagers in James McAtee, Liam Delap and Kayky.
Norwich had chances to take the lead, however, namely through a Grant Hanley header which hit the woodwork in the first half.
In the end, City’s class shone through, with Sterling adding another ball to his mantelpiece.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
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