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."
|Leganes 0 Barcelona 3: Scruffy Suarez double ends goal drought|
|Amos try the difference as Wales labour to Georgia win|
|Crystal Palace 2 Everton 2: Niasse equaliser boosts Unsworth´s case|
|Heynckes reaches record 500th Bundesliga win|
|Bournemouth 4 Huddersfield Town 0: Hat-trick hero Wilson stars for 10-man Cherries|
|Burnley 2 Swansea City 0: Old boy Cork stars as Dyche´s men win again|
|Liverpool 3 Southampton 0: Record-breaking Salah blows Saints away|
|Leicester City 0 Manchester City 2: Jesus & De Bruyne on target as Guardiola´s title tilt continues|
|West Brom 0 Chelsea 4: Hazard leads rampant champions in piling pressure on Pulis|
|Pumas finish strongly to see off Italy|
|They love the club - Wenger hopeful over Ozil, Sanchez deals|
|Bayern Munich 3 Augsburg 0: Lewandowski double sends leaders six points clear|
|Goffin stuns favourite Federer to reach London final|
|Wenger hails tenacious Ozil after derby delight|
|Lacazette and Sanchez are always dangerous - Ozil|
|Fleetwood revels in revival as Race to Dubai drama looms|
|Pochettino fumes over refereeing decisions after derby defeat|
|I´m happy at Juventus - Allegri rejects Italy speculation|
|Lamela returns from injury for Tottenham U23s|
|Paine could keep Australia Test spot for years, says Ponting|
|Arsenal 2 Tottenham 0: Ozil and Sanchez come up trumps for Wenger|
|Kimmich: Working with Guardiola was incredible|
|Rose pushes clear as Fleetwood finishes with a flourish|
|Hayne: Fiji slayed a giant|
|Bale thanks Coleman after Wales coach steps down|
|World Cup exit not a negative, insists Kiwis skipper Blair|
|Kane & Alli fit for Spurs at Arsenal, Lacazette starts|
|Sri Lanka close in on first-innings lead in Kolkata|
|Sydney leapfrog slapstick Jets at A-League summit|
|Hamilton: I learned nothing from Rosberg|
|Christensen guides the way for Loftus-Cheek & Abraham at Chelsea|
|Mertens: Sarri´s tactics give Napoli 12 men|
|Bayliss finds positives despite England´s toil|
|Aubameyang back in Dortmund fold pre-Spurs|
|Hafeez should give up bowling after third suspension – Akram|
|Moses heartbroken as Lebanon come up short|
|Fiji upset New Zealand in World Cup quarter-final|
|Marsh desperate to take Ashes chance|
|England struggle in draw against CA XI|
|Spurs erase 23-point deficit to beat Thunder|
|Tonga edge Lebanon to reach World Cup semis|
|Davis suffers concussion against Nuggets|
|Bosz laments ´ridiculous´ goals|
|Broncos GM Elway calls team ´soft´|
|Madrid have best kids stockpiled – Simeone|
|Guardiola backs Stones to get even better|
|Ibrahimovic will start with bench role, says Mourinho|
|Injections to play a friendly – Mourinho slams England over Jones handling|
|Chargers´ Rivers cleared to face Bills|
|Cook grabs RSM Classic lead|
|Nets PG Russell undergoes successful surgery|
|Championship Review: Sheffield United go top|
|Gloucester´s second-half surge stuns leaders Saracens|
|Schurrle: Dortmund couldn´t deal with Stuttgart counter-attacks|
|Conte laments Italy World Cup failure|
|Murray splits with coach Lendl|
|Hartley´s Toro Rosso deal will not affect Porsche status|
|Amiens 1 Monaco 1: Jovetic rescues point but champions give PSG boost|
|Dimitrov eager to keep momentum going after easy Carreno Busta win|
|Stuttgart 2 Borussia Dortmund 1: Bosz pressure builds after more Burki mishaps|
|Sunderland target Coleman steps down as Wales manager|
|Memorable Ashes Moments: Harmison sends down woeful opening wide as England´s defence wilts|
|Conte´s wife tells him to grow a beard – Conte grows a beard|
|Simeone rules out Everton job, promising ´a couple of years at least´ at Atletico|
|Pique to miss Barcelona´s Leganes trip over personal matter|
|Serena Williams reportedly marries Alexis Ohanian in New Orleans|
|UEFA closes Roma ´monkey chanting´ case|
|Swinson set to miss Six Nations after finger surgery|
|Don´t worry about Messi renewal, Valverde tells Barcelona fans|
|Cheika disrespected referee - Jones|