Jump directly to the content

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

DREAM TEAM

Your Sun

A News UK Company
TOP
maturity

Pep Guardiola has turned Raheem Sterling and John Stones from boys to men

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has proved his quality as a man manager in his handling of English talent

Critics of Pep Guardiola often point at the chequebooks made available to him throughout his managerial career.

Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City are all wealthy clubs capable of attracting some of the world’s best talent to their doors.

But spending alone is not enough to guarantee success — just look at Everton this season.

Sam Allardyce wants a big contract and his own staff before answering Everton's SOS

PA:Empics Sport
7
The saviour returns…

What Guardiola has done with Raheem Sterling and John Stones is proof of his skills as a manager.

The England pair were both labelled as potential mega-flops in the infancy of their Man City careers.

Stones was error-prone and seemed overwhelmed by the pressure of his transfer fee, as well as the expectations of playing for a club with trophy expectations.

While the talent Sterling exhibited at Liverpool shrunk inside him instead of flourishing and fans had to settle for one promising performance in every five games.

Now he impresses four games out of five.

Mentor and apprentice

Rex Features
7
Mentor and apprentice

Many thought Sterling would be shown the door by Guardiola but instead he’s been gifted a regular starting place in a team bursting with marvellous players keen to occupy his role.

In the pre-Guardiola days, Sterling’s confidence in shooting positions was almost non-existent.

He regularly shied away from opportunities to finish himself in favour of another pass, often leading to a chance wasted.

This season he has popped up in goalscoring positions time and time again and hasn’t wasted a second in letting a shot off.

It’s been more of the same since Sterling’s dramatic winner on the south coast

Rex Features
7
It’s been more of the same since Sterling’s dramatic winner on the south coast

His last-gasp winner away to Bournemouth was not a one-off, we’ve seen similar goals since in the Premier League, most notably his second 96th minute winner of the season against Southampton last night.

Still though, put him in an England shirt and he becomes half the player, the old self-doubt returns.

Many who have observed this have criticised Sterling as a response but instead perhaps they should be praising Guardiola?

It’s an obvious example of effective man management, moulding and motivation.

Different player

Getty - Contributor
7
Different player

Many of the same people who believe Guardiola glides to success on the back of expensive players are the same who were still labelling £49million Sterling a ‘waste of money’ 14 months ago.

Sterling’s development proves Guardiola can resuscitate rather than just replace.


EXCLUSIVE DREAM TEAM OFFER: BET £5, GET £20 FREE


There has been much to admire about City this season but the maturing of Stones may well be the most pleasing for fans.

His block against Napoli, with Ederson out the game and the goal at Marek Hamsik’s mercy, summed up his improvement that seemingly took place over the summer.

Last season he cost his side points, now he wins them.

Growth

Getty - Contributor
7
Growth

No player had made more passes in the Champions League this season than Stones before his injury — he is crucial to the team’s philosophy and rhythm.

Still just 23-years-old he has become an assured, composed and authoritative figure.

With the injury-ravaged Vincent Kompany in the tailend of his career, Stones’ potential metamorphosis into an omnipresent defender for City is more important to the club than the form of the multiple attacking midfielders.

Just like Sterling, Stones arrived in exchange for just shy of £50m but you only have to look at his progression under Guardiola to understand the Catalan’s influence.

Teacher and student

Reuters
7
Teacher and student

We’ve seen signs of something similar happening with Fabian Delph as well.

City’s gain could also be England’s if Gareth Southgate can get Sterling, Stones, Walker and Delph to replicate their club form on the international stage.

Until he manages a club with a lower status, Guardiola will always have his critics.

But the evidence is there beyond the free-flowing football, he’s a world-class manager and when his teams are in top gear, they become one the most entertaining and impressive units of the modern era.