EXCLUSIVE: Raheem Sterling talks happiness for Jadon Sancho and why Man City star enjoys playing for England

Alam Khan 19/03/2019
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Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho

Raheem Sterling says Jadon Sancho’s decision to play in Germany reminded him of himself as he backed his young England team-mate to achieve “big things”.

The pair were together at Manchester City until Sancho made a surprising, yet bold move to Borussia Dortmund in 2017 after rejecting a professional contract with Pep Guardiola’s outfit.

To leave City was deemed a gamble at the time, but the winger has shone in the Bundesliga to the extent he now has three caps for his country and is tipped for the very top.

For Sterling, that focus and ambition was a flashback to earlier in his career when he left QPR, and his London home, for Liverpool at 15 and made his debut for England at 17.

“First day I’d seen him training with us, I was really happy to see such a talent,” the 24-year-old said of Sancho, who turns 19 next week.

“I always knew he’d become the player he has, for sure. From minute one. I was playing right back against him one day in pre-season training and he spun me back and I nearly did my back in. He’s a great talent.

“When he first mentioned to me he was thinking about going abroad, even though he was a City player, I was happy to hear that from him. To see that confidence, it reminded me of myself when I went to Liverpool.

“To have a couple of London teams and Liverpool to go to, I chose the further option, to have the time out away from my friends. So when he said that to me about going, I knew he had a massive chance to go on to do big things.

“I wouldn’t say it’s about being scared or frightened in taking a risk, but being mainly content, mainly at ease, and he’s gone on and taken a step forward.

“I’m just really happy to see him doing so well. He’s doing massive things and I hope he stays level headed and keeps working and keeps learning.”

Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho

Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho

Sancho’s rise has seen his value rocket to £100 million with Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid linked with a summer bid.

England boss Gareth Southgate sees Sterling, who became the country’s most expensive player in 2015 when he joined City for £49m, as a perfect role model for Sancho.

In his side’s forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, Sterling, with 47 caps, will also be their most senior player.

Having had to deal with the expectation, pressure and scrutiny on and off the field since making his mark at the top level, Sterling is keen to help guide the talented teen on his exciting journey.

“I want to be like him,” laughed Sterling as he told Sport360 exclusively about being an inspiration to Sancho. “He’s a great talent and I’m just really happy for him.

“Off the field he is a top lad, and that’s the one thing I try to correct him on, off the field, because he’s a great person, just try to help him with advice. But on the field, be as arrogant as you want.

“On the field you don’t need to be level headed. For me, he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and think the best of his ability because that ability can take him all the way to the top.”

Southgate has been impressed by Sterling’s growing maturity and ability on and off the field.

Despite being criticised and not scoring at last year’s World Cup, where England finished fourth, Southgate sees him as a key player in their bid for success at Euro 2020, the Nations League – where they face the Netherlands in the semi-finals this summer – and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Sancho and Sterling on duty for England

Sancho and Sterling on duty for England

“That’s the ultimate, lifting a trophy with England,” said Sterling. “But we don’t want to get too carried away with ourselves.

“We still have to work hard, keep working and with the players that we have now and coming through, we have a massive chance.

“We had a great World Cup campaign, but hopefully we can do better. We came so close to winning it, and I was confident we could win it.

“I had seen how we had gone through, how we were playing and even if I didn’t score, that was the most important thing for us.

“Forget about me on a personal term, to see the country go far in the competition after so long, I was happy to be a part of it and to play a part.

“The next World Cup in Qatar is a long way away, but all I can do until then is get better, grow as a person, grow as a player, and when that comes around, to think about that at that moment.”

Gareth Southgate and Raheem Sterling

Gareth Southgate and Raheem Sterling

Southgate’s input will be crucial towards that, having revived an England team that disappointed at the 2016 European Championships.

With 19 goals for a City side still in contention for four trophies this season, Sterling admits similarities for club and country.

“It’s two different teams, two different managers, but both teams enjoy working for the managers and the ideas they have,” he added.

“He’s (Southgate) been massive, not just for me, but for everybody. He came into the England set up and had a massive impact on all of us; a happy camp, tactics, having a real togetherness and he’s been a joy to work with.

“When I go with England it’s really enjoyable. As I keep stressing the manager makes it that and we are enjoying our football.”

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Man City believe this season could be "special", says Bernardo Silva

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Bernardo Silva admits Manchester City‘s players believe this season could be special with a clean sweep of trophies still possible.

City kept their quadruple hopes alive as a controversial 3-2 comeback win at Swansea took them into the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

The Premier League champions were 2-0 down to their Championship opponents, but three goals in the last 19 minutes kept them on course for an unprecedented four-trophy haul.

“I think all the players feel that this season can be special,” Silva said after City’s great escape in south Wales.

“Last season was special in the way we won the Premier League. This season can be special because we’ve already won one competition and we’re still playing for three.

“Our opponents have made it very complicated for us to win trophies this season, but I think we’ve been doing quite well and we’ll try to keep the momentum.”

City return after the international break with a trip to Fulham on March 30, the start of a hectic schedule which could see Pep Guardiola’s side play as many as eight games in April.

Boss Guardiola says he is “praying” his international players return fit after representing their countries.

Others like Aymeric Laporte, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, who are not on international duty, will have training programmes to follow but will also be given time off.

“We have to keep our focus, knowing that our opponents are very strong,” Silva said after celebrating his new long-term contract by sparking the City comeback with his 10th goal of the season.

“In the semi-finals of the FA Cup it’s one game, anything can happen against very strong opponents.

“The Champions League is probably the most difficult competition in Europe, very difficult to win as well.

“The Premier League is very tight this season with Liverpool in a great momentum as well. So no competition will be easy.”

Matt Grimes’ penalty and a superb strike from Bersant Celina against his former club had given Swansea a shock 2-0 half-time lead.

But the hosts felt a deep sense of injustice as neither of City’s last two goals might have stood had VAR been in operation at the Liberty Stadium – and Guardiola said he was unhappy the video review system had not been used.

The Football Association had decided only Premier League stadiums would have VAR for the quarter-final despite Swansea, as a former top-flight club, being set up to use the technology.

Swansea skipper Mike Van Der Hoorn said: “I think it has to be equal. If you do it at one, you should have them at all. For us, and even for City, it’s a big game.

“We want to go to Wembley and that’s a bit weird (not to have VAR). Last year they did it here. So in this situation for us it would have been a big help, because it cost us two goals.

“But it’s not there, so we can’t do much about it. It’s top team luck, maybe.”

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Brighton up against it in FA Cup semi-finals as they draw quadruple-chasing Man City

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Brighton drew the short straw in the draw for the FA Cup semi-finals as they were paired with Pep Guardiola’s quadruple-chasing Manchester City.

Chris Hughton’s men hit back from two goals down at Millwall to win on penalties and book their place in the last four for the first time since 1983.

And the Seagulls may take heart from the fact that their march to the final 36 years ago included a 4-0 victory over City in the fourth round.

The second semi-final paired Watford with Wolves, who shocked Manchester United at Molineux on Saturday.

Hughton did not attempt to hide the fact he had been hoping to avoid a clash with City, to whom they lost 2-0 in their previous meeting this season at the Etihad Stadium in September.

Hughton told BBC Sport: “I don’t think it is any surprise that all three teams didn’t want to draw Man City but at this moment we’re so pleased to go through.

“If in any way we don’t think we can win the semi-final there’s almost no point going into it.

“We have an opportunity – we’re up against with Liverpool the best team in the country and a team that is going for four competitions, but on the day we have a chance – but we will have to get everything going our way.”

Both ties will be played at Wembley over the weekend of April 6 and 7.

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