Touted as the next big thing in English football, Raheem Sterling has endured a topsy turvy career. The naturally gifted winger has often been targeted for inconsistency and fading away. But the Jamaican born English international is going through the form of his life at Manchester City and England team will rely on his guile and pace in the wings in Russia.
Sterling was born on 8 December 1994 in Kingston, Jamaica. He left his birthplace and moved to London with his mother at a very young age. He also lost his father who stayed back in Jamaica when he was just 9 years old.
Being a dark man in the white man’s land, he had to endure dog days - days of struggle, and his only solace was football. He was sensational in the Queens Park Rangers youth team and emerged as a future star for the national team.
Sterling has represented the Three Lions in youth divisions of under 16, 17, 19 and 21. He made his senior team debut against Sweden in November 2012 at Stockholm. The teenager got to play 85 minutes before being replaced by Wilfried Zaha. The relatively inexperienced England team received a 4-2 pounding from the home team.
Rise to glory
Sterling’s meteoric rise began after his move to Liverpool. He joined the youth team in 2010 and by 2012, he had his senior team debut. He is the third youngest player to play for the Reds.
His rising reputation at club level made him a safe choice for the national team in the 2014 World Cup. However, the teenager was heavily criticised after a catastrophic World Cup performance by the English team.
He scored his first goal for the Three Lions against Lithuania in the 2016 European Qualifiers. The 2016 Euros was yet another tournament to forget for the youngster. While his performance trajectory for national team has fluctuated, his immense talent makes him an integral player in the team.
Doing amazingly well in the youth ranks, Sterling got proper gametime for the Liverpool senior team in the 2012-13 season. While he gave a good account of his talent, occasional shoddy performances brought him down.
However, it was just a precursor for the better things to come. It was as if he could do no wrong in Liverpool’s magnificent and eventually heartbreaking 2013-14 season. He formed a lethal attacking trident with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. He scored and created goals and finished the season with 10 goals in all competitions.
However, trouble was brewing related to his contract extension. Sterling was vehement in demanding fee hike. While he was still valuable for Liverpool in the field, off field issues took centre stage. He even lost support of Anfield and was occasionally booed in the later half of the season when Sterling failed to show up for trainings and openly requested for fee hike.
Despite rejecting offers from Manchester City initially, Liverpool eventually had to let go off him to City at an astounding £49 million in 2015. While the move made Sterling most expensive English player, it drew huge criticism from footballing world regarding Sterling’s lack of commitment and club loyalty.
His first season at City was uninspiring and a far cry from his potential and price tag. The highlight of the injury ridden season was the hattrick against Bournemouth early in the season.
Raheem Sterling was at his inconsistent best in 2016-17 season where he was unstoppable at times but eventually his form would fade away. He still fetched 11 goals in all competitions with his askew form.
However, he has finally proved his worth this season where he has been integral to City’s amazing performances. His finishing has improved drastically and he has been creating chances at will. With 21 goals in all competitions already, Sterling finally looks set to prove his detractors wrong and make a mark at both club level and for England. His transformation from “money grabbing kid” to “Manchester City fan favourite” has been nothing less than phenomenal.