Raheem Sterling’s journey to stardom in England’s Euro 2020 campaign has come against the backdrop of a entrenched media agenda since his departure from Liverpool in 2015.
As one of the historic giants of English football, Sterling’s decision to move to Manchester City – the new boys on the block, a club with much smaller trophy room but much deeper pockets – was condemned in the media and made him a figure of ridicule. among Liverpool supporters.
Many expect Sterling to wilt at City, as his world-class potential – which City believe to have paid £49m for his signature – fades to mediocrity.
A tidal wave of abuse descended on Sterling, who was branded a snake, and the media reaction to his move soon translated into something more sinister, with racial undertones no doubt influencing the treatment of the world-class British superstar in the making.
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Shortly after his move to the Etihad Stadium Sterling, cutting off a less convincing version of the very confident and eloquent spokesman we see today, sat down with Sky Sports reporter Geoff Shreeves to talk about his decision-making process and subsequent reaction to his transfer.
“The main one on my Instagram, is the snake sign. It was the biggest one so far – I’m not trying to make a joke,” Sterling said, when asked about how he believed he was perceived at the time.
“I think someone who loves money too and is hungry for money.
“But realistically I made the decision to improve as a player, and that was the most important thing for my development.
“I just did what I thought was best for my career at the time.”
Given how his Euro 2020 went, it’s impossible to argue that he didn’t achieve what he wanted to achieve.
At Manchester City he grew into one of the most clinical wing forwards on the planet, taking his game to a new level under Pep Guardiola.
The 26-year-old has scored 114 goals and provided 87 assists in 292 appearances for the club and won nine trophies (five League Cups, three Premier League titles and one FA Cup) in six years.
On the international stage with England this summer, Sterling has stepped up to the plate and taken on the responsibility of being one of Gareth Southgate’s most experienced and senior players in a young and inexperienced squad.
He scored 75% of England’s goals in the tournament and emerged with the opener in a 2-0 win over Germany on Tuesday.
It was a hunting strike that demonstrated his intelligence and running time into the box, a trait he has mastered since being picked up under Guardiola’s wing.
Critics may label him a tap-in dealer, but the regularity with which he finds himself in a position to score is a skill very few players have come close to mastering over the course of their careers.
After years of underappreciation, perhaps Euro 2020 will be the tournament where Sterling will finally get the praise he deserves.
The bold and much-maligned decision to leave Liverpool has now been vindicated.
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