Raheem Sterling revealed that criticism from former Liverpool players contributed to a lack of confidence in the aftermath of his £49million transfer to Manchester City.
The City winger, who was named PFA Young Player of the Year this season, shed light on moments when he doubted himself during his teenage years and credited Pep Guardiola with creating the “perfect” environment for him to fulfil his potential in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC.
Sterling was just 17 when he made his Premier League debut for Liverpool in a 2-1 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic in March 2012, but he said his rise to the very top of English football was not always plain sailing.
“When I was 14, 15, 16, 17, I was so confident. Then there was a gap between the ages of 17 and 20,” said Sterling.
“I was so used to people talking positively about me in terms of football.
“Everything was so nice and there was a switch when I left and everyone was saying, ‘He’s no good’. I hadn’t even played for Manchester City but people were saying I was not good enough; he will never be what he thinks he will.
He’s top of the league… pic.twitter.com/HSEWq4A8NL
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) May 12, 2019
“It wasn’t just fans but professional players you looked up to, that you watched on TV when you were a kid. They were all Liverpool supporters and ex-Liverpool players and I get it now, but at the time it was a bit hard for me to take. It was a learning curve.
“You know what you are like, you know right from wrong and you know what you need to improve on. Everyone will have an opinion but I know where I want to go and what I need to do, so it is down to you to carry that out and not get caught up in hearing how good you are or how bad you are.”
Sterling’s 17 Premier League goals – one short of his tally in the previous season – were instrumental in City’s run to the title and he was named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association, as well as being named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
He has become more potent since he left Liverpool, where his highest return in a single season was nine league goals in 2013-14.
The 24-year-old said the faith shown in him by Guardiola had a transformational effect on his career.
“Pep has been massive for me,” said Sterling. “I have seen how he has set up teams in the past and as a young player coming through I thought this was the perfect place for me to come.
Another day, another award I could really get used to this … Honored to have been chosen as FWA’s player of the year, massive achievement & honor, and people know how much this means to me pic.twitter.com/1vo0MFFpxA
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) May 10, 2019
“The first season was a lot of pressure but it was not something I was going to hide away from. It was not something I was ever going to give up on even if it was a rough patch for me. I would go away at the end of the season, look where I went wrong and try to fix it.
“The manager helped me massively in terms of confidence and putting trust in me and being there for me. Since he has come in he has played me in 90 per cent of games and in massive games.
“The environment the manager has created is perfect. You have to earn that trust and earn the respect to be in the starting XI. There are no egos here. It is all about hard work and the ability does the talking.”
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