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Raheem Sterling: Real Madrid a fantastic club but I'm happy at Manchester City

England forward gives interview to Spanish newspaper AS ahead of Champions League clash with Real, who reportedly have long-standing interest in him

Raheem Sterling of  Manchester City
Image: Raheem Sterling is currently recovering from a hamstring injury

Raheem Sterling has hailed Real Madrid as a "fantastic club" but insists he remains happy at Manchester City.

Real are widely reported to have a long-standing interest in the England forward and, just days after City were handed a two-season Champions League ban by UEFA, Sterling gave an interview to Spanish newspaper AS ahead of their Champions League knockout tie next week.

The 25-year-old, whom Sky Sports News reported is planning to stay at the Etihad despite the ban, was pictured with a Real shirt draped over one shoulder and a City top on the other - and he told the paper there is "no better challenge" than facing Real in Europe's elite competition.

Asked if he could see himself in Real's team, he told AS: "It's one of those things. Right now I'm at City and I'm really happy. But I say Real Madrid are a fantastic club.

"When you see the white shirt you know exactly what the club stands for - it's massive. But, at the same time, I have a contract with City now and I have to respect this. But it's a fantastic club.

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"[Rumours of their interest], it's something that you see all the time, but I'm a City player and I'm enjoying it at the moment, even if things haven't gone quite planned in the league. We now have a massive opportunity in the Champions League.

"I keep saying Real Madrid is a fantastic club, there's lovely weather, but I keep saying that I am quite happy at City."

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Barcelona forward Lionel Messi believes some Manchester City players could leave the club if their two-year European ban by UEFA is upheld

City are appealing their European ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after UEFA's adjudicatory chamber (CFCB) found them guilty of serious breaches of Financial Fair Play Regulations - but manager Pep Guardiola has insisted he will stay as boss if the punishment remains.

Speculation has grown over the future of a City squad without Champions League football but Sterling, whose contract runs until 2023, appears hopeful the appeal can be successful

"It's something we don't know much about yet because it's something that has not been confirmed," he said. "The club has a long way to go and we just have to wait and see what happens, but I have full confidence in the club."

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