Kevin de Bruyne has revealed he thought Raheem Sterling would be really arrogant before the two met at Manchester City.
Writing in The Players Tribune, De Bruyne says that having never met Sterling, the only notion he had of him was what he read in the press: “I didn’t think he’d be a bad guy, really. But the tabloids were always claiming that he was arrogant.
“Raheem and I have this strong connection, because we arrived at City around the same time, and there was a lot of negativity about us in the press.
“They said I was “the Chelsea reject.” They said Raheem was this flashy guy who left Liverpool for money. They said we were difficult characters.
“Of course, when you read this stuff about yourself, you think, ‘Me? I’m not difficult. This is ridiculous. These people don’t even know me!’ But honestly, when you read about other players, it influences the way you think. You can’t help it.
“Then I got to City and I actually met Raheem, and we’d talk a bit after training, and I thought, ‘Wait, this guy seems really cool? What’s the story here?’
“Truthfully, I don’t have many close friends – inside or outside of football. It takes me a really long time to open up to people. But over time, I got closer to Raheem, because our sons were born around the same time, so they would always play together.
“I really got to know Raheem, and I recognised what a smart and genuine person he is. He couldn’t be more different from what the tabloids were saying.
“This is the real truth: Raheem is one of the nicest, most humble guys I’ve met in football.”
Following last year’s sensational campaign De
Bruyne has endured a more difficult season this time around, with knee injuries restricting his appearances, although he is now fit again as City chase an historic quadruple.
In his article the 27-year-old midfielder details his relationships with José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola and how they helped shape his career in different ways: “When I was at Chelsea, there was so much in the press about my relationship with José Mourinho. But the truth is that I only ever spoke to him twice.
“The plan was always for me to go on loan for a bit. So I went to Werder Bremen in 2012, and that season went great. When I came back to Chelsea the next summer, a few German clubs wanted to sign me.
Jurgen Klopp wanted to sign De Bruyne while he was Borussia Dortmund manager
“(Jurgen) Klopp wanted me to come to Borussia Dortmund, and they played the kind of football that I enjoy. So I thought maybe Chelsea would let me go.
“But then Mourinho texted me, ‘You are staying. I want you to be part of this team.’
“So I thought, ‘OK, great. I’m in his plans.’
“When I arrived for pre-season, the vibe was good. I started two of the first four games of the season, and I thought I played OK. Not brilliant, but pretty good.
De Bruyne fell out of favour with Jose Mourinho at Chelsea
“After the fourth game, that was it. I was on the bench, and I never really got a chance again. I didn’t get an explanation. I was just out of favour for some reason.
“It was so strange. We had a bit of a conversation about me going back out on loan. And (Juan) Mata was also out of favour at the time, so José said, ‘Well, you know, if Mata leaves, then you will be the fifth choice instead of sixth.’
“I was completely honest. I said, ‘I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me.’
“I think José was a bit disappointed, but to be fair to him, I think he also understood that I absolutely needed to play. So the club ended up selling me, and there was no big problem at all. Chelsea got more than double the price they paid for me, and I got into a much better situation at Wolfsburg.”
When Guardiola took over as Manchester City manager in De Bruyne’s second season at the club, the player felt he had finally found someone whose football obsession and intensity actually outstripped his own.
Kevin De Bruyne says Pep Guardiola’s intensity is even greater than his own
“Pep and I share a similar mentality. To be fair, he’s even more intense about football than I am. He’s so, so stressed – all the time. However much mental stress we are under as players, I think he is under twice as much. Because he is not just interested in winning. He wants perfection.
“Most of the time, football is about negativity and fear. But with Pep, it’s about extreme positivity. He sets goals that are so high that they’re almost impossible to reach. He is a tactical master, yes. There’s no doubt about this. But what people on the outside don’t see is the pressure he puts on himself to try to achieve perfection.”