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Raheem Sterling's Laughing Again, But for All the Right Reasons

20/11/2015 17:38 GMT | Updated 20/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Raheem Sterling earned his well-deserved share of criticism for the way he and his representatives forced through a move from Liverpool to Manchester City in the summer.

Granted, his agent Aidy Ward made the proposed transfer a heck-of-a-lot more distasteful than it could have been. Expressing that the England international wouldn't have extended his contract at Anfield even for £900k-a-week was an unprofessional and needless act, though Sterling didn't cover himself in glory either.

It's one thing to deliver in fits and starts on a football field; it's expected of one so young. And yes, Sterling is still young - he hasn't even reached 21 yet - but it's another thing to conduct a sit-down interview expressing the reasons why you've rejected a new mega-money contract offer from the club that essentially gave you your start in football. Badly advised? Perhaps.

Though despite his denial of the talk that he was a "money-grabbing 20-year-old" from fans and critics alike, a deeper desire ran underneath it all. Some may have thought it was too early for him to leave Anfield, but Sterling didn't believe Liverpool could provide the platform for him to go out and earn regular silverware. He wasn't patient enough to wait around.

In the end, the actions of Sterling's party made it nigh-on impossible for Liverpool to keep him at the club. Selling for maximum price was of primary concern for the Reds' transfer committee, but offloading - even to a direct rival - was their only option. He'd essentially worked himself into an untenable position and it paid off for him. No pun intended.

Liverpool duly got their money, and did very well for it. This deal is likely to rise to £49million (considering the millions that come in additional clauses and the money directed to Queens Park Rangers for their previously agreed sell on percentage) and Sterling now holds the prestigious title of 'most expensive English footballer in history'.

But Manchester City had also snapped up English football's public enemy number one. They'd signed number two, too (Fabian Delph, anyone?), though Sterling's high profile and record transfer fee made him the stand out bad-boy of the Premier League's recent movers.

Heck, it's not even just his talent on the pitch and attitude towards his football that has earned him said 'bad-boy' status. Numerous reports from newspapers have branded him as a "sucker for laughing gas" and that's not exactly an extracurricular activity that's going to draw too much praise for someone so directly in the public eye.

Sterling may need to work on a lot of things. But since his move to Manchester he's really started to make headlines for the right reasons. Sure, he's still not the most consistent performer in the world, but that will come in time as he matures and beds in to the way his new side play football.

One of his biggest on-field criticisms over the past few years has been his inability to convert chances when in position to score. David de Gea foiled him on numerous occasions during a lop-sided 3-0 Liverpool defeat to Manchester United last December, and that was the case in point.

Sterling had the ability to work into threatening positions, but lacked the end product to finish chances. What was needed from him was the kind of maturity and composure to score the kinds of goals that, ironically, put City to the sword at Anfield in Liverpool's last 'so close, yet so far' attempt at the Premier League title.

He wanted to learn, and to improve. He wanted to feature in a team with bigger players. He yearned for the chance to earn silverware with a team who would regularly challenge on all fronts.

Sterling now finds himself in exactly the right place to improve his game while playing alongside some of European football's finest players, and you can bet your bottom dollar he doesn't really give a damn about how he's got into that position. And that's even while he professed otherwise shortly after the transfer was completed.

He's striking his audience as a maturing individual. To boot, Sterling has six goals after a mere third of this campaign, while he managed to hit 11 in each of his previous two seasons in all competitions for Liverpool. The biggest test yet of his improvement - both as a player and as a person - comes this weekend, however.

The time has now come for him to re-introduce himself to some former team mates. The cauldron that awaits him at Anfield will have to wait for a good few months yet, but City's number seven will be one of the chief players looking to put Liverpool to the sword when they visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening.

It's still unfair to expect the world of Raheem Sterling, and if he fails this weekend it'll undoubtedly give Liverpool fans months of satisfaction.

But there's far more to come from this lad going by what he's shown so far in sky blue, and down the line his performances are going to give him the satisfaction, fond memories and justification for previous actions. He won't be needing that laughing gas any more...

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