Raheem Sterling believes criticism for Liverpool exit became 'personal' and says he was never too tired for England

Sterling faced a growing anger from Liverpool fans as he pushed for a move to Manchester City last season while he also came under-fire for being left out of the England side in Estonia last year

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The Independent Football

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has revealed that he did not tell England manager Roy Hodgson that he was too tired to play in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Estonia last year, and believes that some of the criticism he received during the latter stages of his Liverpool spell had gone beyond normal and had become “personal”.

Sterling was left out of the starting line-up for the 1-0 victory in Talinn after Hodgson admitted the player himself had informed him that he was feeling tired. Sterling faced a furious backlash for the decision, despite coming off the bench in the 64th minute, and the drama came at a time when Liverpool fans were beginning to turn on the then 19-year-old as he refused to commit his future to the club.

Sterling, now 20, would go on to complete a £44m move to City that could yet rise to £49m, and make he now has the tag of being the most expensive British signing to join a Premier League club.

However, in a revealing interview with the Guardian, Sterling has revealed that he did not ask Hodgson to be left out of the starting line-up against Estonia, and felt that he was criticised simply for being honest to his manager.

“That was so crazy I don’t think that could happen again, for anyone,” Sterling siad. “The manager asked me a question and, being the person I am, I answered honestly. He asked me how I was feeling and I said I was OK but ‘my legs do feel a bit tired’. I never once said: ‘I don’t want to play’ or anything like that. He just asked me a general question and I was honest. I didn’t lie and say: ‘Oh yes, I feel 100%,’ but at the same time I never said I didn’t want to play. Obviously, the manager changed his mind about me playing and probably based it on that conversation but I was just being honest.”

As the season wore on, Sterling started to face growing anger from the Anfield crowd, and the stand-off with Liverpool led to him holding an interview with the BBC without consent from the club that could be best described as ill-advised.

It was reported that Sterling had rejected an offer worth £100,000-a-week to extend his stay at Liverpool, and matters were not helped when his agent, Aidy Ward, claimed Sterling would not sign a new deal for “£900,000-a-week”.

But Sterling wants to put the record straight and says that the figures batted about during those negotiations with the Reds were “nothing like that” and he felt that his only option was to speak out publicly, although while he doesn’t regret the BBC interview he accepts he should have gone about the matter differently.

“I don’t regret doing the interview because it was frustrating hearing some of the stories about myself and some of the silly money people said I was supposedly rejecting, when it was nothing like that,” added Sterling. “I just wanted to get my point across but probably there was a better way I could have done it.

“After that, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone; all the negativity that came through. It was difficult for me. I don’t mind bad press when it is about football because hopefully you can do something to put it right. It just felt towards the end [at Liverpool] it was a bit personal. People developed this perception of me and it was shocking to find the way that some people viewed me.”

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