I hope Raheem Sterling does well at Man City.
I don’t have any particular fondness for him. I definitely don’t have much fondness for City. He’s a good player. He’s probably not a £49 million player but that’s hardly a controversial opinion.
No I hope Sterling does well just to upset the dully predictable narrative that he may well be caught in. The expensive disappointment narrative. The Torres narrative.
I hope he scores 30 next season. I hope he scores the winning goals in the league decider, lifts City to the cup and holds the Champions League trophy aloft. Sterling triumphant. The man who disproved the naysayers.
I’m hoping for all these things because I’m bored of the flops. The over-hyped English players who make a controversial move for a ludicrous fee that eventually becomes a curse. The once bright hopes who fade into tabloid figures of fun. Bright eyed world beaters evolved into emotionless journeymen who move from team to team, the ghost of what they never became hovering over them.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a surprise just once? To watch on the Match of the Day sofas as Alan Shearer holds his hands up, “I didn’t think he was worth £49 million but I suppose he was.”
To listen to the hyena-like chorus of English football fandom silenced. The chant of “bad-buy, bad-buy, bad-buy” slowly fade as Sterling proved himself a generational talent. The resentful quietness of people who watched as a tall poppy grew taller.
Unfortunately though, it probably won’t happen. The press will already be sharpening the knives. Anything less than outstanding will be branded disappointing. Then again for £49 million, is that unfair?
Who can live up to that price? He could be great, stay in the City first team for ten years and you might still legitimately say, “yeah, but he wasn’t worth fifty mill.”
Once upon a time £50 million was a fantastical amount of money. Now it’s the going rate for top-tier footballers. Actually, it’s the going rate for players who might become top tier.
In England we love to build players up. To take potential and turn it into guarantees of greatness. We brand good performances incredible and assume flashes of brilliance are constants. A player becomes their best moments. The average becomes inadequate.
But maybe more than that, we love to tear them down. We tut and sneer that players never became what we decided they should be. If they hadn’t been so lazy, or greedy or stupid they would have reached the top. When a player doesn’t live up to expectations, the problem was never the expectation.
So just once I’d love to see one of them actually do it. Perhaps Sterling can escape the place currently being prepared for him in the crowded crypt marked City’s Pricey Failures.
Good luck Raheem. God knows you’ll need it.