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."
|Happy Sanchez could win the Premier League for Arsenal, Lauren claims|
|Angered Neymar storms away from Real Madrid questions|
|Bayern played their worst ´for a long time´ - Boateng|
|Neymar form no surprise for Alves|
|Federer congratulates Basel after Man Utd scalp|
|Gremio 1 Lanus 0: Cicero gives Brazilians advantage in Libertadores final|
|Hazard: I admire Madrid, but I´m happy at Chelsea|
|Neuer or De Gea? Digne says Ter Stegen is world´s best keeper|
|Allegri satisfied with draw against ´extraordinary´ Barcelona|
|Nainggolan reaffirms Roma commitment after Simeone praise|
|Simeone hails Griezmann´s ´extraordinary´ volley|
|Emery hails Neymar after stunning Celtic win|
|Championship Review: Wolves thrash 10-man Leeds, Middlesbrough cruise|
|Goncharenko delighted for clean sheet star Akinfeev|
|I hope Barcelona rest Messi – Jesus|
|Thiago suffered a serious injury, says Heynckes|
|Valverde explains decision to bench Messi|
|Iniesta hails ´splendid´ Ter Stegen as Barcelona seal last-16 spot|
|Griezmann shrugs off goalless streak after wonderstrike keeps Atletico´s hopes alive|
|We should have been 5-0 up – Mourinho unimpressed with wasteful United|
|Toure reveals Guardiola anger with City´s Feyenoord display|
|Paris Saint-Germain set Champions League scoring record in Celtic rout|
|Sporting CP 3 Olympiacos 1: Dost on target as hosts stay in contention|
|Bielsa suspended by struggling Lille|
|Anderlecht 1 Bayern Munich 2: Lewandowski and Tolisso give visitors win|
|Atletico Madrid 2 Roma 0: Griezmann returns to form with wondergoal|
|Basel 1 Manchester United 0: Late Lang goal leaves Mourinho´s men with work to do|
|Paris Saint-Germain 7 Celtic 1: Cavani and Neymar score braces in sparkling win|
|Juventus 0 Barcelona 0: Messi benched but Valverde´s men in last 16|
|Conte pleased to take pressure off Atletico clash|
|Success in Europe will help Milan´s league form, Montella claims|
|Bauza sacked by Saudi Arabia|
|Willian: For me, it was a penalty|
|Akinfeev keeps first Champions League clean sheet since November 2006|
|Messi rested by Barcelona side for Juventus clash|
|CSKA Moscow 2 Benfica 0: Goncharenko´s men boost progression hopes|
|Qarabag 0 Chelsea 4: Hazard, Willian lead Blues into last 16|
|If he´s fit, he will go – Wenger backs Welbeck for World Cup call|
|Niasse banned over diving charge after FA rejects Everton appeal|
|Real Madrid´s Carvajal faces UEFA investigation over APOEL booking|
|Everton fined €30,000 over fan trouble against Lyon|
|No change in Everton manager hunt, says Unsworth|
|Chiellini to miss Barcelona match with thigh injury|
|Former Everton and Nigeria striker Yakubu retires|
|Liverpool looking into claims of Seville police assault against fans|
|Toure hails Foden as the ´future´ of Manchester City|
|Record Ronaldo nomination as Real Madrid dominate UEFA Team of the Year candidates|
|Heynckes stay is ´best solution´ for Bayern, says Robben|
|Courtois parks Chelsea contract talks|
|Wigan´s two-goal Colclough makes mad dash to witness birth of son...in full kit!|
|Sevilla boss Berizzo diagnosed with prostate cancer|
|Manchester United move still a possibility for Atletico star Griezmann|
|Carragher slams Liverpool for playing ´like children´ in Sevilla collapse|
|Replacing you might not be a great idea! – Buffon grateful for Rakitic tribute|
|Messi closes on century but Pogba must do more – Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Skoko wants Australian coach as Arnold emerges as Postecoglou replacement|
|Everton yet to make contact with Van Gaal|
|MLS Review: Sounders a step closer to final, Crew and Toronto in stalemate|
|Ben Yedder trolls Liverpool after dramatic Sevilla comeback|
|´World class´ Insigne can´t be rested – Sarri|
|I say one thing and you write something else - Angry Ronaldo brushes off media|
|Griezmann needs support of Atletico and fans – Simeone|
|Monaco paid for mistakes in Champions League exit - Jardim|
|We had to rely on personal pride - Berizzo praises Sevilla´s stunning comeback|
|Championship Review: Coleman loses first Sunderland game, Fulham win nine-goal thriller|
|City fans get first sight of local star they crave in Phil Foden|
|Gunes wants more after historic Besiktas Champions League qualification|
|Allegri plays down Dybala-Messi comparisons|
|Extra rest helped Rose shine in Dortmund – Pochettino|
|Zidane: We knew Ronaldo, Benzema goals would come|
|It feels like we lost - Klopp frustrated at Liverpool´s second-half collapse|
|It depends on Foden - Guardiola puts ball in teenager´s court|
|Postecoglou leaves Australia post|
|Ronaldo overtakes Messi in Champions League goalscoring race|
|Manchester City 1 Feyenoord 0: Sterling strikes late as top spot is clinched|
|Sevilla 3 Liverpool 3: Klopp´s side fail to survive Spanish inquisition|
|Borussia Dortmund 1 Tottenham 2: Son grabs winner as Spurs seal top spot|
|Napoli 3 Shakhtar Donetsk 0: Insigne stunner helps keep knockout hopes alive|
|APOEL 0 Real Madrid 6: Record-breaking Ronaldo and Benzema send holders through in style|
|Monaco 1 RB Leipzig 4: Werner brace dumps Ligue 1 champions out|
|Ronaldo breaks record for Champions League goals in a calendar year|
|I wanted to cry with Buffon - Rakitic sympathy for Italy great|
|Defiant Smalling responds to ´surprise´ England omission|
|Neuer ´on schedule´ but Heynckes won´t rush Bayern star|
|Messi contract saga not swaying Barcelona boss Valverde|
|Spartak Moscow 1 Maribor 1: Stoppage-time equaliser gives Russians everything to do at Anfield|
|Besiktas 1 Porto 1: Talisca leveller sends hosts through|
|Mkhitaryan questions leave Mourinho riled|
|Jones out of Basel, Brighton games but Mourinho hopeful on Bailly|
|Conte unhappy with Chelsea´s fixture congestion|
|Pepe tells Ronaldo: Come to Besiktas!|
|Clement expects Abraham to shake off back injury for Bournemouth clash|
|Oddo replaces sacked Del Neri at Udinese|
|Bartomeu hints at January Barcelona signings|
|Emery defends ´responsible´ Neymar from lifestyle criticism|
|Del Neri sacked by Udinese|
|Everton striker Niasse facing two-match ban after FA diving charge|
|Lampard excited by English clubs in Champions League|
|Thiago and Coman back for Bayern´s trip to Anderlecht|
|Dybala hails Messi as ´our Maradona´, wants to play with Neymar|
|Sherwood talks up Spurs as potential Champions League winners|
|Borussia Dortmund on the brink as Real Madrid eye progress - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Hughton hopeful on video assistance after Brighton denied penalty|
|Klopp staying calm over Salah form|
|Griezmann: I don´t regret staying at Atletico|
|Guardiola dismisses Champions League favourites tag|