In an interview adorned with a picture of him with a Real Madrid over his shoulder, Raheem Sterling claimed Man City are “not treated with same respect” as Liverpool.
Given City are currently embroiled in FFP controversy, and facing a two-year ban from the Champions League along with a €30 million fine, talk of “respect” may be ill-advised.
But Sterling, ahead of City’s clash with Real in the last 16 next week, spoke to Spanish publication AS on his frustration over perceptions of the two sides.
The cover of the newspaper sees Sterling staring into the camera with a City shirt on one shoulder and a Real shirt on the other, and he even fuels speculation over a possible move to Madrid in the future.
However, he still maintains that, due to the PFA Player of the Year award eluding a title-winning City side in recent years—and going to Luis Suarez (2013/14), Mohamed Salah (2017/18) and Virgil van Dijk (2018/19)—there is a lack of “respect” shown.
“Especially in the last year where we have won the domestic quadruple including the league, to not have a player winning PFA Player of the Year kind of speaks for itself really,” he said.
“The award was given to a Liverpool player who had a fantastic season but I look at previous seasons as well when Yaya Toure scored 20 goals from midfield and he didn’t win Player of the Year.
“Also, Sergio Aguero has been at the club for more than seven years and has scored unbelievable goals during this time, yet none of City’s players have won it.
“It is impossible to win the league four times and none of the players were Player of the Year.
“So, this year Liverpool win the league and a Liverpool player will win the Player of the Year for sure.
“We won the league four times and we were not treated with the same respect.”
Of course, there is some basis for his argument, with City undoubtedly blessed with world-class performers in the modern era, with Toure, Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne among those.
But there is also the case that, on every occasion, they have come up against an outstanding individual campaign that has earned votes from their fellow professionals.
Suarez and Salah broke records with their goalscoring, while Van Dijk has stepped up to an all-time level at centre-back since his arrival from Southampton, with last season almost flawless.
That the PFA Player of the Year award is voted by the players is telling; their success has been tainted, and the likes of N’Golo Kante have been more deserving of honours.
It should matter little to Sterling either way, with individual accolades not the yardstick for most players, and it could be even less important if he were to jump ship as City’s oil-backed glory fades.