Up until the 2015-16 season, football had been easy for Raheem Sterling.
The Jamaica-born English winger had established his reputation as one of European football’s most exciting talents during his three full seasons with Liverpool - even winning the coveted Golden Boy award in 2014 - before deciding it was in his best interests to join Manchester City.
City forked out £49 million for Sterling, who endured a difficult debut season at the Etihad Stadium, not helped by the reaction to his decision to leave Anfield.
Labelled a money-grabber and much worse, the nadir of Sterling’s early career came at Euro 2016, when he was blasted by England fans for his underwhelming performances at the tournament.
But at his lowest moment, Sterling received a reassuring text message from Pep Guardiola, his new manager at City.
The text message Guardiola sent Sterling after Euro 2016
“Don't worry, I know you're a good player,” Guardiola, per Henry Winter, messaged the forward. “As long as you work for me, I'll fight for you.”
And Sterling, to his credit, has knuckled down, taken onboard Guardiola’s advice and is now reaping the rewards.
In 47 appearances last season, Sterling scored 10 goals. In 11 appearances this term, the 22-year-old already has eight goals to his name.
Ferdinand: Why Sterling doesn't get the credit he deserves
It was Sterling who broke the deadlock for Man City in their 2-1 win over Napoli on Tuesday night.
And after the match, Rio Ferdinand explained that he thinks Sterling doesn’t get the credit he deserves in England purely because he’s English.
“I think that’s eight goals he’s got in eleven games this season,” Ferdinand said on BT Sport. “If he was a foreign kid with that return given the last few years he’s had, we’d be talking him up as an unbelievable talent.”
It’s a fair point.
Gary Lineker then asked the former Manchester United and England centre-back if he feels Sterling gets a hard time.
“I think he does,” Ferdinand added. “What he’s doing now is he’s showing people he’s got the capacity to learn and he’s under a tutor like Pep Guardiola. You hear people like Thierry Henry who played under him.
“As an attacking player he teaches you to be disciplined and understand the way the team’s playing. If you listen to that you learn and you become a better player and he is living proof at the moment.”
Video: Ferdinand gives his opinion on Sterling
Watch the video here...
It's time football fans accepted Sterling is class
It’s hard to argue against any of that.
Sterling has proven over recent weeks and months that he deserves his place in Man City’s squad.
And it’s about time certain football fans started acknowledging the fact that he’s one of the best talents English football has produced in recent years.