Raheem Sterling has laughed off the numerous media reports that have made him out to be a brat, and claimed that he "just has one of those faces" people don't like.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the Manchester City star covered a range of topics including what it's like to play under Pep Guardiola and visiting his native home of Jamaica.
It is the negative reactions from the media and football fans, though, that Sterling made particular note of during his chat with the Guardian. The 22-year-old has been the subject of plenty of column inches ranging from his expensive cars to being caught on camera inhaling nitrous oxide, but Sterling admitted that he "can't win" when he sees stories written about him whatever action or decision he makes.
He said: “I see it and think, ‘Why does that story have to be about me?’ If you’re doing something wrong – the times I’ve been caught doing balloons, whatever, yeah, no problem. I accept if you’re a silly boy you get dealt with.
“But there’s these times when you’ve been thinking about football, been at home, just trying to stay out of everyone’s way, and you’re still getting stuff. I see it as I can’t win.”
Sterling drew widespread criticism from Liverpool supporters for his big money move to City in July 2015 after he conducted an interview stating that he was motivated by trophies and not money, while other football fans have given him grief over his apparent desire to dive during games.
Raheem Sterling is pretty clearly the best player on the English Men's National Team.— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A)
March 26, 2017
The England international, however, is clearly not worried by the opinions of others as he laughed off the negativity with some self-deprecating humour.
He continued: “I’ve got that face (laughs). You know when you see someone on TV and go, ‘I don’t like him?’ Some people have that face and I’ve got it. I can’t do anything about it. I’ve just got face: he looks like a brat. The ‘I don’t like face’. That’s how I see it. And I’m not a brat. Sometimes I’m watching a movie and you see a character and go, ‘I don’t like him’ – that’s me.
“There’s not even any point stressing. When I actually saw those stories I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, are you winding me up?’ I could not believe what I was seeing. I thought, ‘Has it really come to this? Like really?’”
Sterling was only nine years old when his father was tragically killed in an ambush in Jamaica - a death that naturally left the winger and his family devastated. Now, the QPR youth product uses his dad's memory to drive him on and become a better player.
He said: “Performing for my dad does drive me on. Especially in big games, massive games. Like the [FA Cup] semi-final against Arsenal coming up, that’ll be the next thing in my head about him.
"Whenever it comes to an important day like that he always runs through my head. You’re always thinking, ‘It’s a great atmosphere, great scenery, he never experienced this.’”
Raheem Sterling: "I’ve got that face people don’t like but I’m not a brat"— ㅤ (@Beardamendi)
Go on Raheem lad. pic.twitter.com/HcDAUcywOA
March 31, 2017
Sterling has been a player transformed under the guidance of Guardiola during the Spaniard's first season at the Etihad Stadium - form which has been underlined by an impressive haul of nine goals and 20 assists in 38 appearances this term.
The forward is not just four goals shy of eclipsing the tally he earned during his spell at Liverpool - Sterling bagged 23 goals and 25 assists in 129 games for the Reds - in 42 fewer games and, asked whether he believed he could become a footballing superstar, Sterling was steely in his response.
He added: “Oh every day – every day. I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t. That’s my aim. I’m not here to be a number. I’m here to be one of the best, as simple as that. I just need to raise my game – I know exactly what I need to do to go where I want.”
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