Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne has been speaking to The Player’s Tribune about his experiences of the UK tabloids since he returned to the Premier League with the current champions in 2014.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main takeaway was, in a nutshell, “don’t believe everything you read in the papers.”
De Bruyne recalled how he was unsure of what to make of soon-to-be teammate Raheem Sterling on account of the stories he had read in advance: “I’d read about him in the English press, I thought he was going to be a very different character…I didn’t think he’d be a bad guy, really. But the tabloids were always claiming that he was arrogant. So I guess I thought he’d be… what do the English call it?
“A bit of a dickhead, maybe?”
In the event, De Bruyne goes onto describe how Sterling was in fact “really cool,” and “a smart and genuine person.” De Bruyne added that the pair’s children would go on to play together regularly and that the two became firm friends, despite De Bruyne being someone with few close friends who it takes “a really long time to open up to people.”
De Bruyne added: “He couldn’t be more different from what the tabloids were saying.”
It wasn’t only the Sterling of tabloid legend that De Bruyne didn’t recognise. The playmaker recalled how the same papers had characterised him too as a “difficult character.”
De Bruyne’s reaction? “Me? I’m not difficult. This is ridiculous. These people don’t even know me!”
Gary Lineker is perhaps better placed than many to analyse and comment on De Bruyne’s thoughts, given the tabloids’ relentless obsession with his every word and deed:
The Players Tribune was founded by former baseball pro Derek Jeter in 2014, in many ways as an antidote to the tabloid media’s coverage of leading sporting figures. The website describes itself as a “media company that provides athletes with a platform to connect directly with their fans, in their own words” and one which will “present the unfiltered voice of professional athletes, bringing fans closer to the games they love than ever before.”