Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling has hailed Pep Guardiola as a "massive" influence on his career and insists he needed no assurances over his future when speculation emerged linking him with a move to Arsenal.
Sterling scored his seventh goal of the season for the prolific Premier League leaders in Saturday's 7-2 demolition of Stoke City and is playing with a level of confidence not always associated with his performances for club and country.
The England international endured a difficult first season at the Etihad Stadium under Manuel Pellegrini after joining from Liverpool in 2015 but he credits Guardiola's "genius" approach with uncluttering his game.
"He's been massive for me, especially with basic and the simple stuff," Sterling told a news conference ahead of City's Champions League Group F clash with Napoli on Tuesday.
"He always tries to get you to do the simple stuff at a really top level. That's the genius thing about him and it works."
Sterling detailed a strong bond of trust between himself and his manager, one that came through links to Arsenal around the transfer deadline unscathed.
The 22-year-old was mentioned as a potential makeweight in any deal to take Alexis Sanchez from Emirates Stadium to Manchester – rumours that Guardiola strongly refuted – but Sterling never entertained the possibility without word from his boss.
"I didn't need to speak with him. I already spoke to him in the summer about pre-season. I didn't have any negative thoughts about it," he explained.
"I woke up with England one day and saw it. I didn't believe a word of it. If I'd heard something from the manager then I would believe it.
"It wasn't something that I was worried about because I think Pep is an honest guy and he would have spoken to me before that. I didn't need to worry about it and didn't think about it for one minute."
Things have rarely looked as rosy at international level for Sterling as they do currently at City, with some below-par performances and the drawn-out nature of his switch from Anfield leaving him as the target of considerable online vitriol.
Sterling infamously referred to himself as "#TheHatedOne" in an Instagram post during England's ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign but – in comments that drew a warm look of appreciation from Guardiola sitting alongside him – he told reporters he tends to stay away from social media's more unsavoury elements nowadays.
"To be fair, my first year here, being really young, I used to always be on Instagram," he said.
"You'll see stuff pop up and check it out because you don't know any better. Since I have been getting those negative comments, I realise the best thing to do is not to look at it so it won't affect you.
"My thing over the last two seasons has been not to look at it and it won't affect you."
6 - Raheem Sterling has scored six goals in his last six Premier League games, more than in his previous 31 combined (5). Form.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 14, 2017
Indeed, Sterling is focused upon events on the pitch, with his career-best haul of 11 goals in the 2014-15 season for Liverpool already in his sights.
"Something I've been trying to improve is scoring more goals, being more efficient and being a bit more clinical," he added.
"That's been a massive question mark for me over the last few years and I'm just trying to build as a player. A player in my position needs to be scoring goals more regularly."
|Sarri´s mentality made me a better footballer - Jorginho|
|Tax rates played a role in Ronaldo joining Juventus, says LaLiga president|
|Aggressive McIlroy doing it his way, not the fairway|
|I let him have it - Spinazzola ribs Ronaldo over Juve shirt number|
|Thomas makes it back-to-back wins|
|Ramos may remain for Spain but Luis Enrique promising surprises|
|Cazorla still playing through pain after Villarreal appearance|
|Vegas to Carnoustie - a hellish trip for Jhonattan|
|NFL training camp 2018: Five under-the-radar rookies to watch|
|Woods off to a flyer as Thomas charges|
|Sanchez given green light to join Man Utd tour|
|Greipel, Groenewegen and Gaviria latest sprinters to abandon Tour de France|
|Luis Enrique hopeful over Pique as he plots a Spanish evolution|
|I had a brain fart - Spieth disappointed with missed opportunity|
|I´ve sacrificed too much to quit, says injury-plagued Rossi|
|Klopp rejects Henderson´s plea to return early to Liverpool training|
|Open champion Spieth loses ground in scrappy finish|
|Alexis Sanchez hints visa issue sorted as United States trip beckons|
|Kovac an admirer of Pavard, expects James to stay|
|Dzeko happy at Roma and eyeing silverware|
|Eels win basement battle with Bulldogs|
|Kluivert to follow Totti´s example after taking ´big step´ with Roma|
|Kisner hopes to return Claret Jug favour to Spieth|
|FIBA bans 13 players & two coaches over Philippines-Australia brawl|
|Spieth and Rahm in the mix as Kisner sets the target|
|Monchi insists Roma remain ambitious as Liverpool close in on Alisson|
|Cavendish thanks ´race that shaped career & heart´ after cruel Tour exit|
|No Trent Bridge Ashes Test as England confirm schedule|
|Ajax tell Barcelona not even ´insane´ money will buy De Ligt, De Jong|
|Hamilton agrees two-year Mercedes extension|
|Uran withdraws from Tour after failing to shake off injuries|
|Spieth tees off Open defence|
|Zidane has shown no will to coach France, insists FFF president|
|Risking the curse - Steelers star Brown lands on Madden 19 cover|
|Pogba silenced his critics with World Cup displays – Ibrahimovic|
|Warburton overwhelmed by support following retirement|
|Wilshere excited by tactics of Wenger-like Pellegrini|
|Deschamps never considered France exit prior to World Cup win|
|Persepolis eye Champions League after Iran impress at World Cup|
|Sandy Lyle gets The Open underway at Carnoustie|
|Roosters sign England international Hall|
|Ovechkin, Kim earn major honours at ESPY Awards|
|Owens not ´actively seeking´ to play in NFL again|
|Argentina need Messi – Tevez urges Lionel not to retire|
|Minnesota United 2 New England Revolution 1: Ramirez, Quintero sink stuttering visitors|
|Shaw: I want to be first name on Man United teamsheet|
|Manny Machado dealt to Dodgers|
|Pjanic hails Ronaldo arrival but refuses to confirm Juve future|
|Perotti: Roma can cope without Liverpool-bound Alisson|
|Klopp hopes Liverpool building towards title tilt|
|Karlovic exits as four seeds bow out in Newport|
|Angels clap back at Manfred´s marketing comments on Trout|
|Titans DL Casey will still protest despite new anthem policy|
|Popovich on Leonard trade: It´s time to move on|
|Zola returns to Chelsea as Sarri´s assistant|
|Anthony Joshua targets ´dream´ fight in Texas|
|Celtic 3 Alashkert 0 (6-0 agg): Dembele hits brace before injury worry|
|Schwartzman stumbles but Spanish duo reach last eight at Swedish Open|
|Top seeds progress in Bucharest as Larsson conquers Kung|
|Perez promises ´incredible´ signings at Real Madrid|
|Liverpool need a top goalkeeper - Souness|
|It was just an absolute car crash - Root regrets bat-drop celebration|
|Mourinho´s pre-season fears mount with Sanchez sidelined|
|Alisson thanks Roma fans ahead of rumoured Liverpool switch|
|Pogba must understand his World Cup heroics, says Mourinho|
|Odriozola excited by Lopetegui reunion at Real Madrid|
|Revis announces retirement from NFL after 11 seasons|
|The Open 2018 diary: Rahm´s saving Grace, Rory´s going grey|
|Kawhi Leonard traded to Raptors as DeMar DeRozan heads to Spurs|
|Cantona, Rosberg and other surprise retirements after Warburton hangs up his boots|