Once Raheem Sterling brushes up on the basics of his game, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Premier League defences will be facing an even more formidable force. Sterling's form fell away during his debut campaign at the Etihad Stadium after arriving for a reported initial outlay of £44million from Liverpool in July 2015.
But the 22-year-old has been a mainstay of Guardiola's attack this season, scoring nine times across all competitions, while his cross for Sergio Aguero's opener in Sunday's 2-0 win at Sunderland was his 19th assist.
Sterling has operated impressively in tandem with left-winger Leroy Sane over recent months and, although delighted with their contribution, Guardiola believes both youngsters have room for improvement.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday's Premier League encounter with Stoke City, Guardiola pointed towards Sane's tendency to "disappear" during games, while he believes Sterling can lift the fundamentals parts of his play.
"He's decisive because he is playing a lot of minutes, a lot of games," Guardiola said of his premier right-sided attacker.
"It is true – how many chances he creates, how many he scores, creates penalties, [wins] fouls and being aggressive without the ball in the press and many, many things. He is so important.
"But still, it is the same case as with Leroy. Still it is a guy who has a lot of things to improve.
"I would like him not to believe or think it is already good. He can be better, believe me. Raz can be better
"Still he makes mistakes in the simple, easy things. When improves that… wow.
"In football you have to start by making the simple things. After, the quality to dribble and score goals, that is the more difficult thing – he has this talent."
A post shared by Raheem Sterling x (@sterling7) on Jan 11, 2017 at 3:08am PST
Sterling cut an embattled figure during England's sorry Euro 2016 campaign, bearing the brunt of some cutting tabloid vitriol.
Guardiola reportedly called the player while on international duty to try and lift his spirits and the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has been impressed by his efforts from the moment he took charge of him in Manchester.
"Since the beginning, when I arrived, I was delighted," he said. "Even when I was in Munich when I saw him [I was impressed].
"I like the wingers to make aggressive runs in behind, one-against-one, and he has these qualities.
"From the beginning, when he came back from the national team, I said 'wow – that is the player I thought he was'."
In between terrorising top-flight defences, Sterling and Sane have struck up a burgeoning friendship off the field that heartened their manager during City's recent training break in Abu Dhabi.
"It’s nice when we go to Abu Dhabi and see how close they are," he added. "That's a most precious and beautiful thing.
"The team spirit is better than ever since I've been here. That's what I like the most."