Raheem Sterling’s Instagram page is littered with the snake emoji, and his Twitter mentions are filled with calls that he is a money-grabber.
But the Manchester City star insists he moved to Liverpool in 2015 simply to better his career.
Sterling left in acrimonious circumstances - his agent, Aidy Ward, told the Evening Standard months before the move that the winger wouldn’t sign a new contract at Anfield for “£700, £800, £900 thousand a week” - and has never been forgiven by the Liverpool faithful.
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Eight months after the move and Sterling still receives criticism. He was booed on his return to Anfield earlier this month and the hostile reception seems to have an effect on his performance - he was substituted at half-time.
In an interview with Sky Sports, the 21-year-old has revealed why he had to leave Merseyside after five years at the club.
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t for the money.
“The main [comment] on my Instagram is the snake sign - that's the biggest one so far - and someone that loves money, hungry for money.
“Realistically, I am trying to improve as a player and that's the most important thing for me and for my development. I just did what I thought was best for my career at that moment in time.”
Sterling’s first season at the Etihad Stadium has been something of a rollercoaster.
The England international is yet to put together a string of impressive performances and City might have expected a bigger return from Sterling - he has scored 11 goals in 41 appearances.
By comparison, Manchester United’s Anthony Martial has scored 12 goals in 38 games in his first season in England.
But Sterling has already added a winners medal to his trophy cabinet after Manuel Pellegrini’s team beat Liverpool in the Capital One Cup final.
City was a great stepping stone
And the winger has admitted his main aim this season was to concentrate on his football, not making any moves that would see his name on the front pages.
That was the mistake Sterling made last year when he insisted money wasn’t the reason he was yet to sign a new contract at Liverpool in an interview with the BBC.
“Obviously getting a move to City was a great opportunity for me and a great stepping stone, but I thought to give myself the best chance to progress and do well was to try to stay out of people's TV's and headlines.
“I tried to be seen to focus on football and make it the right headlines. It's a difficult one because people formed an opinion on me and I can't do anything to change that.
“If I came out again and said something else it would probably make the situation a lot worse. Maybe it could have made it better, who knows?
“I thought to myself at that moment in time it was the right thing to do - get a level playing field and try to keep it a smooth one and go into the season with the right head and focus.
“I think I've not done too bad. I think I've stayed out of the way.”
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