When Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez had their initial altercation towards the end of Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, it was hard not to feel that things would be awkward between the two of them when they met at England training the following day.
But these things happen in football and everyone expected them to be professional enough to move on. What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch.
However, Sterling ended up getting himself dropped for Thursday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro after a training ground clash with the Liverpool defender.
Sterling later admitted on social media that “emotions got the better of me”, before adding the pair were now “good”.
Gomez, meanwhile, was left sporting a scratch under his right eye as he made his way out to training on Tuesday morning.
Further details of the clash at St George’s Park have now emerged courtesy of The Athletic.
The incident, which occurred at 12:30pm on Monday, began when Gomez reached Sterling after shaking hands with his fellow teammates in the canteen.
Sterling, who was sitting down, snapped and responded, “So you think you’re the big man?”, stood up and tried to get Gomez in a headlock, knocking food over from the table in the process.
“It was a pretty full-on thing and food went everywhere,” a source told the Athletic, via the Mirror. “Sterling behaved like a bit of a child.”
Another source said: “It was all out of the blue, ‘Woah, what the hell has happened here?’ Everyone was just a bit shocked.”
The Athletic add that Sterling was devastated by the outcome of the 3-1 defeat and arrived at St George’s Park in an emotional state on Monday morning after images of Gomez pushing him had been widely circulated online the previous evening.
‘Gomez had initially thought Sterling was joking, and a handful of team-mates laughed at the City player’s initial comment,’ the Athletic’s report adds. ‘But when it became clear that Sterling was serious, Gomez moved backwards and the pair had to be separated by concerned team-mates.’
Gomez is understood to be ‘very upset’ by the incident. The Athletic continue: ‘The softly-spoken defender does not like confrontation and did not think there would be any issue with Sterling following their embrace after Sunday’s match. But he decided, in the words of one source, to “take the moral high ground” in the interests of “what is best for the team”.’
It’s also believed that Liverpool are angry that Gomez has been put in this situation through no fault of his own.
As for Sterling, who was initially been sent home by Gareth Southgate before the England boss changed his mind following an intervention from England’s senior players, it’s said that while his behaviour may have surprised some, ‘there is also a view from those who know him well that he is more competitive and driven than many realise. And that defeats as important as Sunday night matter more to him than they might do to other players.’
The 24-year-old is expected to return to England’s starting line-up for Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo.