Kevin De Bruyne thought Manchester City team-mate Raheem Sterling was a “d***head” before they met after making assumptions based on how the England player had been portrayed in the media.
The pair both joined City in the summer of 2015 in big-money deals, Sterling from Liverpool for £44million and De Bruyne from Wolfsburg for £55m.
De Bruyne, after his brief spell at Chelsea, was well aware of his fellow new arrival’s reputation but was surprised to discover the man did not live up to his billing.
“Before I came to Manchester City, I didn’t really know what to make of this Raheem Sterling guy,” the Belgium midfielder wrote in a piece in The Players’ Tribune.
“I had never met him, and from what I’d read about him…I thought he was going to be a very different character.
“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 d***head, maybe?
“They said Raheem was this flashy guy who left Liverpool for money. They said I was ‘the Chelsea reject’. They said we were difficult characters.
“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?’
“I really got to know Raheem, and I recognised what a smart and genuine person he is. He couldn’t be more different.
“This is the real truth: Raheem is one of the nicest, most humble guys I’ve met in football.”
The perception of Sterling has shifted in the time since he left Liverpool as a precocious teenager and his outspoken views on racism, in addition to the way he has handled abuse on the pitch, have earned him much praise.
Coupled with his form on the pitch the England international is one of the leading candidates for this year’s Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year Award.
With a bit more good luck with injuries this season De Bruyne could have been joining him on that list.
“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,” the Belgian added.
“When I was at Chelsea, there was so much in the press about my relationship with Jose Mourinho but the truth is that I only ever spoke to him twice.
“I thought maybe Chelsea would let me go (in the summer of 2013) but then Mourinho texted me (to say) ‘You are staying. I want you to be part of this team’.
“I started two of the first four games of the season, after the fourth game that was it. I was on the bench, and I never really got a chance again.
“I didn’t get an explanation. I was just out of favour for some reason.
“Jose called me into his office in December, and it was probably the second big life-changing moment for me.
“He had some papers in front of him, and he said: ‘One assist. Zero goals. Ten recoveries’.
“I was completely honest. I said: ‘I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me’.
“So the club ended up selling me, and there was no big problem at all. Chelsea got more than double the price they paid for me, and I got into a much better situation at Wolfsburg.”
De Bruyne could still play a pivotal part in City’s quest for the quadruple but it has been a frustrating time for him this season.
“This season has not been easy for me. The injuries and the matches that I’ve missed have been extremely difficult for me, mentally,” he said.
“Sitting and watching a match from the stands is basically worse than torture for me. I can’t cope.
“Even at funerals, I don’t cry. But if you take football away from me? Forget it. I can’t cope.”