Barcelona interested in Raheem Sterling - who loses Man City leadership role

Barcelona are ready to follow up interest in Manchester City's Raheem Sterling in January, with the England forward falling out of favour at the Etihad Stadium under Pep Guardiola.

Catalan daily Sport report that an operation to sign Sterling in the summer was 'close to being closed' - despite the well publicised financial issues Barcelona face. And a fresh report on Saturday establishes Barcelona's continued position; that their interest is alive and they would like to reopen talks to sign Sterling in the January transfer window.

Sport state that Barcelona's director of football Mateu Alemany travelled to England for negotiations over a deal for Sterling in the summer, and that they were initially looking to offer one of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele or Sergi Roberto in exchange to secure a loan deal for the 26-year-old.

Barça have since offloaded Griezmann to Atletico Madrid, and their financial position to put a deal together for Sterling is said to have improved slightly since then.

Sterling has only started one game for City this season so far - the opening day Premier League defeat to Tottenham - and has appeared as a substitute in the games since. The club signed Jack Grealish for £100m from Aston Villa in the summer and he now occupies the position on the left side of the attack, with a number of other options preferred in the two remaining forward positions.

While a senior player and a regular for England, Sterling's stock has fallen at club level. Pep Guardiola is said to be open to letting the player leave, while the player himself is said to be open to a move to Barcelona given his standing in the squad.

Moreover, the Times report that Sterling has recently lost his leadership role in the City squad to Ruben Dias. Backroom staff, coaches and players vote each year for the players they feel are best placed to lead the club, and the top five are the nominated parties. The vote is said to have taken place last week, with Sterling finishing outside the five.

Fernandinho is reported to have won this year's vote, followed in order by Ilkay Gundogan, Ruben Dias, Kevin de Bruyne and Kyle Walker.

Despite the speculation over his future and his status in the squad, Guardiola has backed Sterling to come good at City, saying: “Do you know how many incredible successes we’ve had in the last seasons? That would have been impossible without Raheem. He’s such an important player.

"He reached an incredibly high standard and I have to tell him this is the standard we need, for you, for all of us. I’m pretty sure he will get it. I’m so optimistic that he will have a great season.

And Guardiola went on to play down the importance of the vote, too: "There are players who are not selected and they are so, so important. Thinking about Scott Carson, you cannot imagine how important he is in our locker room and he is not the captain. There are many captains and they do not wear the armband."

Source : 90min