England are concerned over the state of mind of Raheem Sterling as criticism mounts over his Euro 2016 performances.
Sterling, who impressed at times after his £44m move from Liverpool to Manchester City, but struggled for consistent form, started England’s first two group games of the tournament.
But while the winger believes he ‘had a good opening game against Russia’, according to the Daily Mirror, he has faced significant backlash both on social media and from his own fans in France.
The Mirror, The Guardian and numerous other outlets report that senior members of England’s staff have raised concerns over the 21-year-old’s mental well-being.
Dominic Fifield of The Guardian reports that Sterling is active on social media and ensures to keep himself regularly updated on how he is perceived on the platforms. Fifield adds that he is ‘well aware of the abuse to which he has been subjected’.
John Cross of the Mirror reports that the former Liverpool star has been ‘left bemused’ as to why he has ‘been targeted’ by fans this summer.
Sterling has faced fan criticism before, not least during his protracted move from Anfield to the Etihad Stadium in summer 2015, a time during which both he and his family were subject to online abuse.
But Fifield claims this reaction has deeply affected the youngster, who has been ‘taken aback’ by his vilification, which includes a JustGiving page being set up to ‘bring Raheem Sterling home’, as well as being booed by his own fans at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis during the victory over Wales. He was substituted at half-time in that game, with England losing 1-0.
The player feels he ‘has been made a scapegoat’ for his country’s struggles, and he will seek talks with psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, who worked with him before the tournament. However, England chiefs fear that his confidence has already been ‘badly eroded’.
Sterling is thought as unlikely to start the last-16 tie against Iceland in Nice on Monday, although Roy Hodgson is expected to make five changes from the side which drew with Slovakia. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and captain Wayne Rooney will be restored to the starting line-up.