Michael Regan/Getty Images
Given the way the transfer market is progressing, with English players costing a significant premium due to the new £5.1 billion television deal set to kick in this summer, the £49 million City paid Liverpool for Raheem Sterling is beginning to look like a bargain.
This, after all, is the most promising young English player around. Like most his age—and it’s easy to forget he’s just turned 21—Sterling’s form is yet to stabilise. There are good days and bad days; some where his pace and precociousness make him almost unplayable and others where he looks unable to influence the game. It’s perfectly normal.
What isn’t normal is his ability. This is a rare talent, one capable of reaching the very top of the game. Pace, directness, skill and an ability to create, he’s got plenty in his armour already.
And his attitude is superb. Watch any interview he’s given for CityTV, or read the quotes from interviews with national newspapers, and a theme emerges.
This is a focused young man who knows exactly what he needs to do to reach the top of the game. The fact he has left Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool already in his short career, moves designed to help him develop, says everything about his ambition and determination.
His reputation was tarnished after his move in the summer thanks to a coordinated attack from ex-Liverpool players in the media. That, it seems, has transmitted to the stands.
Sterling has been booed at pretty much every away ground he’s visited so far this season in what has become a weird campaign against a young man looking to improve his career prospects and bank balance, just like the rest of us do in our day-to-day lives.
It seems it’s also spread to match officials. Sterling cannot get a decision. The recent game with Everton, where he was denied a clear penalty in the final seconds when John Stones cleared him out inside the area, was the clearest example, but there have been many more.
It’s been a mixed season. He’s faced criticism at times, but when one takes a step back and considers his age, new surroundings and the adversity he’s faced, he’s been superb.