Manchester: Pep Guardiola wants to see the on-form Raheem Sterling break the 30-goal barrier for the first time in his career this season, but will only judge the England forward on his overall contribution to the Manchester City team.
Sterling has started the new campaign in prolific form, scoring in the Community Shield against Liverpool before netting a hat-trick in the 5-0 win at West Ham to start the Premier League season last Saturday.
He scored a career-best 25 last season as he collected the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award as City won the domestic treble.
But Sterling has spoken of his hunger to score goals being stronger than ever with the 30-mark now in his sights.
“It will be good for Raheem and for the team if he can score 30 goals,” says Guardiola. “When he’s in front of the goal, he puts it in the net. He scored 25 last season and 25 to 30 is only five goals.”
Scoring more than 30 goals in a season across one of Europe’s top leagues and the Champions League is seen as a mark of an elite player.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have done it regularly over the last decade and more and that is the company Sterling is trying to join.
But his manager knows goals are a by-product of good football from his teammates.
“But I never spoke with Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus or with any of the people up front about what their targets are,” states Guardiola.
“They are happy when they are scoring goals. But goals are a consequence of the way we play – their mood, how they are playing, injuries,” he added. “I wouldn’t judge Raheem if he scored 30 goals or 35 or 20. When he scores goals, I’m happy. But if he does what he has to do for him and the team, it’s enough.”
Sterling will take his form into City’s clash with Tottenham on Saturday – the first test of either side’s title credentials this season.
City were 27 points above Spurs on their way to the Premier League title in May, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side claimed the bragging rights in Europe as they came through their Champions League quarter-final on away goals.
And Guardiola is wary of what Pochettino can do to cause City problems.
“They are a strong team, a good team. I said many times that Pochettino is doing an extraordinary job,” said Guardiola.”My opinion about him is high standards. He is a top, top, top manager, even if he doesn’t believe me.”