The Belgium midfielder claims the English press forced him to have a negative view of Sterling before eventually getting to know him
Kevin De Bruyne has revealed he thought Raheem Sterling was a ‘d***head’ before eventually getting to know the England forward at Manchester City.
Sterling and De Bruyne both signed for the Etihad Stadium club in summer 2015, with the former’s move to City a drawn out saga involving a contract dispute and the player sitting out of training due to an alleged illness.
Sterling was constantly criticised during his final months at Liverpool
The 24-year-old, who has developed into a world class talent since joining City, was widely criticised throughout his final season at Anfield, with a number of former Liverpool players, as well as their then-manager Brendan Rodgers, slamming Sterling for disrespecting the club.
He was also a target of consistent criticism by the press, something which has followed Sterling even since leaving Liverpool. Only last December he posted a message on Instagram calling out the English media for their negative portrayal of black footballers, a day after Sterling was allegedly racially abused by Chelsea supporters at Stamford Bridge.
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And this negative portrayal in English newspapers caused De Bruyne, who joined City a month after Sterling, to view the forward with suspicion.
De Bruyne quickly discovered that the Sterling he knew of from the media was nothing like Sterling in reality.
“I am a brutally honest person,” the Belgium international wrote for The Players’ Tribune. “So I will let you in on a little secret.
“Before I came to Manchester City, I didn’t really know what to make of this Raheem Sterling guy. I had never met him, and from what I’d read about him in the English press, I thought he was going to be a very different character.
“I didn’t think he’d be a bad guy, really. But the tabloids were always claiming that he was arrogant. So I guess I thought he’d be… what do the English call it?
“A bit of a dickhead, maybe?
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“Raheem and I have this strong connection, because we arrived at City around the same time, and there was a lot of negativity about us in the press. They said I was ‘the Chelsea reject’. They said Raheem was this flashy guy who left Liverpool for money. They said we were difficult characters.
“Of course, when you read this stuff about yourself, you think, ‘me? I’m not difficult. This is ridiculous. These people don’t even know me!’
“But honestly, when you read about other players, it influences the way you think. You can’t help it.
“Then I got to City and I actually met Raheem, and we’d talk a bit after training, and I thought, ‘wait, this guy seems really cool? What’s the story here?’.
Sterling and De Bruyne are in their fourth season playing alongside one another at City
“Truthfully, I don’t have many close friends – inside or outside of football. It takes me a really long time to open up to people. But over time, I got closer to Raheem, because our sons were born around the same time, so they would always play together.
“I really got to know Raheem, and I recognised what a smart and genuine person he is. He couldn’t be more different from what the tabloids were saying.
“This is the real truth: Raheem is one of the nicest, most humble guys I’ve met in football.”