Raheem Sterling’s transformation from “hated one” to hero continues apace with the forward’s England exploits sparking a scramble among major companies to sign him up.
In the wake of Sterling’s man-of-the-match performance at Wembley against Italy on Tuesday – which followed a dazzling display versus Holland in Amsterdam – rival sportswear giants made approaches to him.
Both Puma and Under Armour are interested in poaching Sterling from Nike, his long-term sponsor, and making him the England “face” of their brands going into the World Cup.
Leisurewear, drinks and confectionery brands are also vying for Sterling whose marketability is seen as having blossomed on the back of an excellent season for Manchester City, and now a step up in his England status.
Operating in both the recent friendlies as a No10, and creating huge difficulties for the opposition with his speed and dribbling, Sterling appeared to cement himself in Gareth Southgate’s ideal starting line up for the World Cup, supplanting Dele Alli as principle support to Harry Kane.
He also impressed with a mature and passionate performance before the media in advance of the Italy game. Sterling, involved in 27 goals for City this season, has come a long way since 2016 when he was singled out as scapegoat by critics of England’s dismal European Championship showing.
The vicious and often personal criticism he suffered led him to dub himself The Hated One on his Instagram account. However Southgate signalled, in the wake of England’s 1-1 draw with Italy, that Sterling is now a central figure for him on and off the pitch.
“He is playing with confidence, speaking with confidence” said the England manager.
Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola said it is “so important” City agree a contract extension with the 23-year-old, whose current deal expires in 2020, with talks scheduled to begin this summer.