Scottish Daily Mail
STERLING A STAR TURN FOR SUPER RICH CITY
ASSEMBLED at not far short of half-a-billion pounds, Manchester City are the most expensive squad ever to have visited Celtic Park.
When casting an envious eye over the balance sheet of these flash City traders, though, Brendan Rodgers could take personal responsibility for the inflated value of Sterling.
Raheem Sterling, who proved a pivotal figure on a breathless evening at Parkhead, was famously barracked on camera as a teenager by the former Anfield boss in scenes broadcast in a Being Liverpool TV documentary.
After the 17-year-old had interrupted his team-talk on pre-season in the USA, Rodgers warned Sterling he would be ‘on the next plane home’ if he acted out again. Reprimand seemingly heeded, Sterling starred as Rodgers’ Liverpool came within a Steven Gerrard slip of being crowned champions of England for the first time in a generation in 2014.
In the rare quieter moments during last night’s 3-3 draw with City, how the Northern Irishman must have had cause to regret his role in the winger’s rise to prominence. Not least when Sterling bagged his side’s second of a thrilling contest.
Seemingly shorn of confidence after an underwhelming European Championship, culminating in an humiliating exit by Iceland, a text message of encouragement from Pep Guardiola lifted the winger’s spirits.
Working under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has restored Sterling once more to the kind of devastating flying machine he was for Rodgers.
Despite a fine performance, Sterling (right) did not have it all his own way on a night when Scottish football’s currency rose after a few years of its reputation taking a battering.
The 21-year-old watched, head in hands, as City fell behind within three minutes, only to equalise through Fernandinho. There was then a hint of nastiness as he aimed a fly kick off the ball at Celtic captain Scott Brown.
But worse was to follow when Sterling diverted Kieran Tierney’s cross past City keeper Claudio Bravo for an own goal. Parkhead erupted but Sterling soon silenced the crowd when he was played in on goal by David Silva.
With an exquisite swivel, he left Tierney racing in the opposite direction and Craig Gordon on the ground. His low, rolled finish was every inch as cool as you would expect of a £49million player.
City paid Liverpool more than four times what it cost to assemble the £11.6m Celtic starting line-up last night. But Sterling was merely one star in a galaxy of multi-millionaires at Guardiola’s disposal.
He was missing star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (£55m), with £47.5m central defender John Stones entering the fray as a late substitute.
Up front, Sergio Aguero was bought for £38m but that was in 2011 and the striker would fetch at least double that in the transfer market now. As they walked out to a deafening din, Aguero feigned boredom — as if he had seen it before.
That look did not last long as, on a wild and windy night in the east end of Glasgow, he and City’s stars were initially blown away by a hurricane start from Celtic. At the final whistle, the impressive Sterling shook his head and then shook the hands of the Celtic players.
The Goliaths of City had been slick but, considering the vast gulf in resources, Celtic had been slicker.