Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has denied he refused to play for England, claiming he spoke honestly with manager Roy Hodgson over his fitness.
Sterling missed England’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Estonia last October, with Hodgson stating after the game that the 20-year-old told him he was “a little tired”.
However, Sterling – who moved to City for £49million in July – has refuted claims he asked to sit out the game in Tallinn.
“The manager asked me a question and, being the person I am, I answered honestly,” he told The Guardian.
“He asked me how I was feeling and I said I was OK but ‘my legs do feel a bit tired’. I never once said: ‘I don’t want to play’ or anything like that. He just asked me a general question and I was honest.
“I didn’t lie and say: ‘Oh yes, I feel 100 per cent,’ but at the same time I never said I didn’t want to play. Obviously, the manager changed his mind about me playing and probably based it on that conversation but I was just being honest.”
Sterling admits coverage of his controversial exit from Liverpool was hard to accept and believes criticism for his off-field behaviour was extreme.
“After that, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone; all the negativity that came through. It was difficult for me,” he added.
“I don’t mind bad press when it is about football because hopefully you can do something to put it right. It just felt towards the end [at Liverpool] it was a bit personal. People developed this perception of me and it was shocking to find the way that some people viewed me.”