At 1.70 meters and 69 kilograms, Raheem Sterling is, at least on paper, too small to make it in the Premier League. That is exactly what Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham told him as a 15-year-old.
The three Premier League clubs were all looking at the possibility of signing him from Queens Park Rangers' youth team but were put off by his small stature.
"Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, they all knew about Raheem. But their attitude was: 'Too small, too much baggage'," QPR youth coach Steve Gallen told reporters in 2014. "At the time, I wanted him to stay at QPR. I persuaded the reserves to give him his debut at 15 so he'd feel he was being fast-tracked. But at one meeting, after training, Raheem said 'Steve, I have to go'."
It would turn out to be a complete oversight by the clubs. Liverpool took a risk on him, paid a six-figure sum to seal his signature and then watched him blossom into one of Europe's most exciting teenage footballers.
Although they did so reluctantly, the Reds sealed a huge profit when they agreed to sell him to Manchester City in a £49million deal in 2015. After a difficult first season under Manuel Pellegrini, he is finally looking like value for money under Pep Guardiola.
Stronger than he looks
But how has this pint-sized talent defied the odds and made it in the world's most physical league in the world? Brendan Rodgers, who will reunite with his former player in Wednesday's Champions League tie between Celtic and City, said he is in fact one of the strongest players he has come across.
Rodgers told a tale of how Liverpool players tried to kick him in training but quickly realised it was of no use; Sterling rode every challenge and absorbed every shoulder barge.
"You can’t kick him, that’s for sure," said the Celtic manager. "He doesn’t look it but he’s one of the strongest young guys you’ll come across.
"I saw that in training all the time. All the centre-halves tried to kick the life out of him but very quickly they realised you can’t. He was actually stronger than them. His physicality is immense for such a slight boy. He’ll never get bullied in a game."
Back to his best
Rodgers also paid respect to his opposing manager Guardiola for getting the England international back to his best.
"He lost what he was, which is a one-v-one guy who is dynamic and can take people on," Rodgers continued. "Raheem is clearly working now with a coach who is very clear in terms of how he wants to play, and he’s back on track to be one of the world’s top players."
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