Raheem Sterling is not the only young, talented footballer who moved to a bigger club early in his career. Yet to take a moment and consider the onslaught of criticism directed towards the English star, uniquely tailored to undermine and attack his character, it would suggest he is the epitome of the world's woes and flaws.
We were told of his crashed Mercedes with laughing gas canisters inside, with it subsequently emerging he actually allowed a friend borrow the car. Of his disgraceful post-Euro 2016 behaviour as he flaunted an expensive mansion on Snapchat that turned out to be for his mother. Of Pep Guardiola's apparent desire to get rid of the winger, using him as a makeweight in a potential Alexis Sanchez deal. Of his arrival at training in the 'biggest Mercedes' wearing a hoodie despite it being the day he was set for a 'huge pay rise.' Of his alleged issues on a summer tour. Just yesterday, of his shopping at Primark despite a £180k-a-week wage. Early in his career, Sterling was forced to address malicious rumours on Twitter, after they were widely spread online.
All my 8 kids in one pic.. oh god do I love them all 😘😘 pic.twitter.com/amFvwmDDgF
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) August 6, 2014
The thing is, Sterling does represent a unique sub-set increasingly prone to provoke anger and a backlash. His wealth and success evoke jealousy, his first name evokes pent-off xenophobia and his playing style an easy source of ridicule. His is a game of pace and deftness. It is likely should he play for a lesser team, be called Jamie and clumsily throw himself into robust challenges, the personal abuse would be significantly more menial.
As he told The Guardian, Sterling is aware something about him provokes a strong reaction.
I’ve got that face. 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.
Despite this, there is steel beneath the skill. Sterling has continued to thrive in Pep Guardiola's unprecedented dominance of the Premier League. His smart running lines and anticipation has seen his arsenal expand as he has already notched up 20 goals in all competitions. Two of those came during City's 4-1 romp against Tottenham.
Just four hours before that game, Sterling was confronted outside City's training ground, racially abused and kicked in a shocking hate crime.
Unfortunately, this is not a new experience for the 23-year-old. A quick scan of the comments under his Instagram will confirm that unfortunate truth.
Sterling's continued defiance and refusal to wilt is as commendable as the abuse is lamentable. A society where a successful and proud Jamaican-born Englishman cannot work unhindered is undoubtedly broken.
The upcoming major tournament will be a monumental test of Sterling's enduring disregard. Should England fulfill the expectancy and flop once more, the scrutiny will only intensify. His contribution to the failure will matter little, it is a separate quality that ensures Sterling will bear the brunt of that forthcoming wrath.
Buys expensive things = lavish, extravagant, extreme.
Buys cheap things = cheapskate
This is the absolute pits of journalism, whipping up a faux controversy about how a young, black sportsperson spends his money. pic.twitter.com/4pRgQSEvnJ
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) March 4, 2018
The Manchester City player could represent the triumph of a much-needed technical talent in a multi-cultural and evolving nation. A star who emerged from a notorious estate to become an ambassador for the Greater Manchester High Sheriff's Police Trust, working to stop young people turning towards crime. As his substantial donation to the Grenfell Tower fire victims showed, the man has not forgotten his routes.
Sterling is as open and deserving of criticism as anyone, but that should be reserved for just infringements.
In a sense articles such as this are also the problem, because Sterling's is ultimately a success story. He is not the problem, and was able to overcome the injustice. But something about the talented footballer provokes the toxic reaction. Sterling infuriates certain quarters in a way very few figures can, and that is the topic deserving of a case study.
What is with their bizarre, excessive and undue infatuation with Raheem Sterling?