Fans boo Raheem Sterling every time he touches the ball in Liverpool. Others have racially abused him in London in a match against Chelsea. His countrymen even jeered him while playing for the England National Team.
At the age of 20, fans across England wrote off the talented British Jamaican soccer star. The reasons ranged from what some considered a selfish attitude for spurning Liverpool and signing with Manchester City to the belief that he would never become a true goal scorer even with all the speed and physical gifts in the world.
Now, at 26, after a half-decade of harsh treatment, growing up, and learning under the greatest manager of all time, Sterling is the hero of the UEFA Euro 2020 England squad trying to win their first-ever Euro trophy and first major international tournament since 1966.
English fans and media treated Raheem Sterling poorly from his early days
Born in Jamaica, Stering moved to London at age 7. He began his career in the Queens Park Rangers academy before moving to Liverpool, according to ManCity.com. He made his Premier League and England National Team debut at just 17.
At 20, Sterling and Liverpool got in a contract dispute when the Merseyside club didn’t want to pay the winger his desired salary. After a contentious negotiation that alienated Liverpool fans and players, Manchester City agreed to a $70 million transfer, a then-record for an English player.
The knock on Sterling at the time was that he lacked composure and natural finishing skills around the net. When legendary manager Pep Guardiola got to City a year after Sterling, that began to change.
Sterling had 38 career goals and 46 assists before Guardiola showed up. Since then, Sterling has 103 goals and 77 assists. He’s also helped City win three Premier League trophies, five Carabao Cups, and an FA Cup.
Even with the success, English fans continued to scapegoat Sterling . His coverage by the English press often drove these negative feelings.
The British tabloids constantly write negative articles about everything from his home to his cars to where he shops. One of the worst examples happened when he got a tattoo of a gun on his leg. The tat is a tribute to his father, killed by gun violence when the forward was two. After that, he promised himself he would only ever shoot with his legs. Regardless, the press went wild, chastising Sterling for promoting guns.
With this history, Sterling, who has never scored a major tournament goal for England, has scored three in Euro 2020, including the game-winner that moved the squad into the quarterfinals.
The England National Team Ended the ‘55-year German jinx’
Sir Bobby Charlton and the England National Team beat Franz Beckenbauer’s West Germany side to win the 1966 World Cup on home turf at Wembley Stadium. It is the Three Lions’ only major international tournament trophy.
Since then, Germany (or West Germany pre-1991) knocked England out of the 1970 World Cup, Euro 1972, the 1990 World Cup (in a heartbreaking penalty shootout), Euro 1996 (in another heartbreaking shoot where current England manager Gareth Southgate missed the deciding penalty), and the 2010 World Cup.
Even though the teams met at Wembley again for the round of 16 in Euro 2020, English fans couldn’t feel great about their chances.
After a back and forth first half where both teams dominated for stretches, Sterling guided a Luke Shaw pass into the back of the net in the 75th minute. England barely kept its 1-0 lead intact when, moments later, Germany’s Thomas Muller narrowly missed the post on a breakaway.
England striker Harry Kane put the final nail in the coffin in the 86th minute, netting an awkward header to give England the 2-0 victory.
ESPN’s Ian Darke summed it up best when the final whistle blew. The Englishman could barely contain his excitement proclaiming, “55 years of hurt never stopped England dreaming! England beat their German jinx and, maybe for Gareth Southgate, exercised those demons from 1996!”
Current and possible future Manchester City stars led the England National Team to victory
While Guardiola is back in Manchester plotting how to defend City’s Premier League title and win the organization’s first Champions League trophy, the former Spain National Team player’s influence hangs over the Three Lions squad.
In addition to Sterling, today’s starting lineup also included City players John Stones and Kyle Walker. This duo helped anchor the defense that held Germany scoreless. City starlet Phil Foden was the only Guardiola player that didn’t see action today.
Along with Euro 2020, the Premier League transfer market is already heating up. Two other key Englishmen in today’s game may be joining Sterling at the Etihad Stadium for the 2021-22 season.
Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish — who came on in the 69th minute, changed the game with his creativity, and helped set up both goals — is rumored to be on his way to the blue side of Manchester for a $122 fee, per Sports Illustrated. Tottenham Hotspur star Kane, who Grealish assisted on the second goal, is also a major target for Guardiola this offseason as he looks to replace the departed Sergio Aguero.
The irony of the possible City move for Kane is that Raheem Sterling transfer rumors have emerged along with this. Speculation is that Sterling could be used as a makeweight in a $100 million-plus deal to bring in Kane.
At only 26, and with his Euro 2020 performance indicating the best is yet to come, City would be wise to keep Sterling. If not, they face the very real possibility of having to eat it in the future like so many others that have given up on Sterling in the past.
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