Arsenal suffer transfer blow as Barcelona leapfrog them in Raheem Sterling race

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Arsenal could face a battle to land Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling in January, with Barcelona jumping ahead of them in the queue to snap up the England man, according to reports. Sterling has been linked with a premature exit from the Etihad Stadium in recent weeks after losing his automatic starting spot under Pep Guardiola.

The 26-year-old made 49 appearances in all competitions last season as City clinched yet another Premier League title and reached the Champions League final.

However, he has been forced to share the wide positions with the likes of Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Ferran Torres as of late.

Sterling remains under contract until the summer of 2023 but has been tipped to seek a new challenge elsewhere when the January transfer window rolls around.

Arsenal have been credited with a desire to bring him to the Emirates Stadium as Mikel Arteta seeks reinforcements ahead of the business end of the campaign.

The Spaniard enjoyed a fruitful working relationship with Sterling during his time on City’s coaching team and is said to remain a keen admirer of the forward, who scored three goals for England at Euro 2020 during the summer.

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In spite of the Arsenal manager’s interest in a move, it seems as though Barcelona could have the upper hand if a two-way battle for his signature arises in January.

The Catalan giants are looking to land Sterling on a half-season loan deal and will have enough money to cover his lucrative salary demands, according to the Mirror.

The report claims that Barcelona have recently freed up plenty of additional funds thanks to the summer departures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Messi had been the club’s highest earner on around £500,000 per week, while Griezmann took home £294,000 per week before returning to Atletico Madrid on a temporary basis.

Barcelona’s newly-found riches suggest that Sterling’s wages should not cause any problems if they decide to act on their interest in his services at the turn of the year.

However, it remains to be seen whether City would be willing to let the former Liverpool man leave.

Guardiola insisted that Sterling could still have a big role to play after his side’s Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain last month.

“He can play there [on the right] but at the start of the season Gabby [Jesus] played really good there,” the ex-Barcelona boss told reporters.

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“Especially with guys with one-on-ones like Jack [Grealish] and Riyad [Mahrez] who can attract more opponents and PSG players to create the spaces in the other areas.

“[Sometimes] we need a guy who runs in behind right to left and Raheem is the best we have in the squad.

“It depends sometimes on the opponents and the way we want to attack and specific players we need, we sometimes need specific qualities for that.”

Sterling has racked up a total of 297 appearances for City since joining the club back in 2015, chipping in with 72 goals and 49 assists in the process.

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