Born in Jamaica, Sterling moved to London at the age of five and began his career at Queens Park Rangers before signing for Liverpool in 2010. In July 2015, following a lengthy dispute over a new contract, he was signed by Manchester City in a transfer potentially worth £49 million, the highest transfer fee ever paid for an English player.
He represented England at under-16, under-17 and under-21 level before being capped at full level by the national team in November 2012, and performed at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Sterling was born in the Maverley district of Kingston, Jamaica, and spent his early years there. At the age of five, he emigrated to London with his mother, and attended Copland School in Wembley, North West London. His absent father was murdered in Jamaica when Sterling was nine years old.
Sterling was signed by Liverpool from the Academy at Queens Park Rangers in February 2010 by Rafael Benítez for an initial fee of £600,000, with the possibility of rising up to £5 million depending on how many appearances he made for the first team.
Sterling played in the youth team, scoring his first goal in a friendly against Hibernian in a 2–2 draw. His first Premier Academy League match was a 2–2 draw against Aston Villa, his first win coming at home to Bristol City a week later. On 15 December, Sterling scored in the FA Youth Cup in a 4–0 win over Notts County. On 14 February 2011, Sterling scored five goals in a 9–0 win over Southend United.
On 24 March 2012, Sterling made his senior Liverpool debut as a substitute in a league match against Wigan Athletic, aged 17 years and 107 days, becoming the third-youngest player to play for the club in the process. He made two more appearances over the remainder of the campaign, again as a substitute.
In August 2012, he made his European debut for the club, coming on as a substitute in a UEFA Europa League qualifying match against Gomel, replacing Joe Cole in a 0–1 away win. The following week, Sterling scored his first goal for the senior team with a first-half strike in a friendly against Bayer Leverkusen. On 23 August 2012, he started his first match for Liverpool in a Europa League qualifying match away to Hearts in a 0–1 win. He was given his first start in the league three days later in a 2–2 draw at Anfield to Manchester City. He played the full 90 minutes in the loss to Arsenal on 2 September, and the draw with Sunderland on 15 September, where he registered one assist and was named man of the match. On 19 September, Sterling was one of the group of teenagers that traveled to Switzerland to play Young Boys in a UEFA Europa League group match. He replaced Stewart Downing in the second half as Liverpool won 3–5. On 20 October, Sterling scored his first senior competitive goal for Liverpool in the 29th minute in a 1–0 league win against Reading with a strike from the edge of the box. As a result, he became the second-youngest player ever to score in a competitive fixture for Liverpool, behind only Michael Owen.
On 21 December 2012, Sterling signed a contract extension, committing his future to Liverpool. He scored his second league goal for the club on 2 January 2013, opening the scoring in a 3–0 win against Sunderland with a lob over goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
On 27 August 2013, Sterling scored his first goal of the 2013–14 season, the opening goal against Notts County in a 4–2 win in the League Cup. On 4 December, Sterling scored his first Premier League goal of the season for Liverpool in a 5–1 win over Norwich City. His form in December saw him score two further goals in wins against Tottenham Hotspur (5–0) and Cardiff City (3–1). On 8 February 2014, he scored twice in a 5–1 win against Arsenal at Anfield. On 13 April, he scored Liverpool's opening goal in a 3–2 win over Manchester City. A week later, he scored two goals and assisted another as Liverpool won 2–3 against Norwich City at Carrow Road.
On 18 April 2014, Sterling was named as one of the six players on the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year award. He was named Liverpool Chartered Player of the Month for April. At the end of the season, he was named Liverpool's Young Player of the Year, beating off competition.
On 17 August 2014, Sterling scored to help Liverpool to win their opening match of the 2014–15 season, a 2–1 win at home to Southampton at Anfield. On 31 August, Sterling scored the opening goal in a 0–3 league win against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and was named man of the match. Sterling was named the Liverpool Player of the Month for August.
On 16 September, Sterling made his UEFA Champions League debut in a 2–1 victory over Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield. On 14 December 2014, he made his 100th appearance for Liverpool in a match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. On 17 December, Sterling scored a brace in a 1–3 victory over Bournemouth at Dean Court in the League Cup quarter-final.
On 20 December, Sterling was named as the recipient of the 2014 Golden Boy Award. "It's down to hard work. I'm really happy that people are recognising that I'm trying to work hard and do my best for this football club. I'm really grateful for this award," he stated upon receiving the award. Sterling was officially excused from Liverpool's FA Cup match against AFC Wimbledon in January 2015, with manager Brendan Rodgers aiming to prevent the player becoming exhausted. He used the time off to holiday in Jamaica.
On 20 January, Sterling scored a solo goal against Chelsea in a 1–1 draw in the League Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield. Taking a pass from Jordan Henderson, leaving Nemanja Matić for dead and making Gary Cahill look like he had weights attached to his boots before beating Thibaut Courtois to find the net. On 31 January, Sterling scored the opening goal in a 2–0 win over West Ham United. On 4 February, Sterling scored the equaliser against Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium in a 1–2 away win for Liverpool. On 22 February, he scored the second goal for Liverpool in a 0–2 win over Southampton.
On 13 April, Sterling opened the scoring in a 2–0 win over Newcastle United. He was named the team's Young Player of the Season on 19 May for the second consecutive year in a row, and when receiving the award was booed by fans due to his rejection of a new contract; he was also booed on 7 June, while playing for England in Dublin. On 16 April 2015, for the second consecutive year, he was named as one of the six players on the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
On 9 February 2015, Brendan Rodgers claimed Sterling had been offered "an incredible deal" to stay at Liverpool, rumoured to be a new contract worth £100,000 a week, but he also stated Liverpool were "certainly not a club that is going to give way, way above what a player is worth at a certain time in their career." However, on 20 March, Rodgers claimed Sterling's contract situation would not be resolved until the summer at least.
On 1 April, Sterling gave an unsanctioned interview with the BBC, where he confirmed he had turned down a new deal, but denied that this was for reasons of money. He had two years of a £35,000 per week contract remaining and said that he would not negotiate a new contract until the end of the season. Four days later, Brendan Rodgers slammed Sterling's advisors (Aidy Ward) on the interview, saying, "You are not a 20-year-old boy and you pick up the phone and ask to speak to the BBC. You don't do it. Him in particular. But, of course, if he is asked to do that by other parties then that is what he'll do."
On 21 May, amid rumours that Sterling intended to leave the club his agent, Aidy Ward gave an interview to the London Evening Standard saying, "I don't care about the PR of the club and the club situation... He is definitely not signing. He's not signing for £700, £800, £900 thousand a week."
On 11 June, Liverpool reportedly rejected an initial bid of £30 million from Manchester City. One week later, they reportedly rejected a second bid from City for £40 million, with Liverpool valuing Sterling at £50 million. Following news that Sterling had reportedly asked to be left out of Liverpool's preseason tour to Asia, and missed two days of training through illness, was met with widespread criticism from former Liverpool players, including Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness.
On 12 July 2015, a deal was agreed for his transfer to Manchester City for an initial £44 million, with a further potential £5 million in add-ons, subject to personal terms and a medical, which would make him one of the most expensive transfers of all time. On 14 July, Sterling officially joined Manchester City, signing a five-year contract.
He made his debut for Manchester City against Roma in the pre-season 2015 International Champions Cup on 21 July, and scored inside three minutes. His competitive debut came on 10 August, starting as City began the season with a 0–3 win at West Bromwich Albion.
On 29 August 2015, Sterling scored his first competitive goal for Manchester City in a 2–0 defeat of Watford at the City of Manchester Stadium.
On 22 September, he scored once and registered two assists in a 4–1 Football League Cup third round win at Sunderland. Sterling scored his first career hat-trick as City beat Bournemouth 5–1 on 17 October.
On 3 November, Sterling scored his first UEFA Champions League goal in a 1–3 win at Sevilla. On 8 December, he scored twice in the final ten minutes of City's last group stage fixture against Borussia Mönchengladbach, helping turn a 1–2 deficit into a 4–2 win and ensuring City overtook Juventus in the final group standings. On 20 March 2016, he suffered a groin injury in a 1–0 loss to rivals Manchester United, and was ruled out for 8 weeks.
Sterling eventually lost his place in the starting lineup. He failed to feature in any of the most effective performers of the 2015–16 season, and was considered one of the worst signings of the season.
Sterling appeared regularly for Manchester City under Pep Guardiola for the opening matches of the season and gave brilliant performances. On 9 September 2016, Sterling was announced Premier League Player of the Month for August after he scored two goals and provided one assist in 3 appearances for the club, this was his first award in his Premier League career.
On 26 August 2017, Sterling scored the winner in a 2–1 away win at AFC Bournemouth minutes after stoppage time ended. He was sent-off by Mike Dean with a second yellow after he celebrated among traveling supporters that had run onto the pitch.
In an attempt to sign Alexis Sanchez on transfer market deadline day, Guardiola reportedly offered cash plus Sterling to Arsenal. Sterling rejected switch to the London side.
Sterling's international career coincided with the introduction of the "home nations agreement." It was not until September 2009 that FIFA agreed to the proposals by the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Football Associations to update the agreement, allowing players who were educated in their nation for five years or more to become eligible for their national team. Sterling first represented England at under-16 level in November 2009 in a match against Northern Ireland. When speaking of the possibility of playing for Jamaica, Sterling said, "When it comes to that decision, that is when I will decide, but if Jamaica calls for me, why not?"
Sterling was selected to play for England for the 2011 U-17 World Cup. He scored a long-range goal in England's opening 2–0 win against Rwanda in Pachuca. He also scored against Argentina in the second round in a match where England won 4–2 on penalties. On 10 September 2012, Sterling was called up to the senior England squad for the first time for a 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine, where he was an unused substitute. In early October he was called up for the first time to the England under-21 squad and made his debut as a substitute during a match against Serbia on 16 October. He scored his first goal for England U21 on 13 August 2013, in a 6–0 win against Scotland.
Sterling made his senior debut for England on 14 November 2012, starting in a friendly away to Sweden. On 5 March 2014, Sterling earned his second cap and was named man of the match as England beat Denmark 1–0 in a friendly match at Wembley Stadium.
On 12 May 2014, Sterling was named in England's 23-man squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In a pre-tournament friendly on 4 June, against Ecuador in Miami on his fourth cap, Sterling slid into Antonio Valencia, who reacted by grabbing Sterling's neck; both received red cards for their actions. Valencia later apologised for his reaction.
On 14 June, Sterling started in England's opening group match, a 2–1 loss to Italy in Manaus, and was rated as the team's best performing player by the BBC.
On 27 March 2015, Sterling scored his first senior goal for England in a 4–0 UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley Stadium. On 9 October 2015, Sterling scored his second goal of the qualifying campaign in a 2–0 victory against Estonia.
Sterling plays as a winger, attacking midfielder or striker, though he is more comfortable as a natural winger. Sterling has been praised for his adaptability and ability to play wide, at the tip of a midfield diamond and centrally, offering flexibility. Known for his pace, low centre of gravity, and dribbling skills, Sterling has been compared to Alexis Sánchez by his former manager Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has also praised him for offering a "real threat," his use of pace with composure and his maturity. Despite his small stature, he also possesses considerable upper-body strength, which aids him in withstanding challenges, and retaining possession.
Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi said in November 2014 that Sterling is good enough to play for the La Liga club, praising his physical and technical qualities. In April 2015, BBC Sport columnist Phil McNulty wrote that Sterling was "very good with the potential to be outstanding" but remained a "work in progress" due to inconsistent performances. He also wrote, "He is blessed with natural pace that makes even the best defences and defenders take a step back."
On 8 August 2013, Sterling was arrested for an alleged common assault on his former girlfriend, a model. He was found not guilty at Liverpool Magistrates Court on 20 September, when the complainant was unable to offer consistent evidence. A few months earlier, on 20 May 2013, a charge of common assault on a different woman was dropped just as the trial was set to start when the two witnesses failed to appear and the prosecution offered no further evidence. Sterling's legal fees in the earlier case were paid for by the court.
He has one daughter, Melody Rose, born in 2012 after a brief relationship. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2013, Sterling stated that he is a Christian and the faith is an important thing for him.
In April 2015, Sterling was photographed by the Sunday Mirror allegedly smoking a shisha pipe, and by The Sun allegedly inhaling nitrous oxide for recreational purposes. Manager Brendan Rodgers said, "I don't think it is something you should be doing, it's as simple as that...Young players make mistakes. As long as they learn from them, that is what is important."
In 2012, Sterling signed a sponsorship deal with American sportswear and equipment supplier, Nike. He appeared in an advert for the new Nike Green Speed II alongside Mario Götze, Theo Walcott, Eden Hazard, Christian Eriksen and Stephan El Shaarawy in November 2012. In January 2013, he modelled the new Nike Mercurial Vapor IX.As of match played 20 September 2017
As of match played 4 September 2017
As of match played 4 September 2017. England score listed first, score column indicates score after each Sterling goal.
Manchester CityFootball League Cup: 2015–16
UEFA Champions League Team of the Group Stage: 2015
Liverpool Young Player of the Year Award (2): 2013–14, 2014–15
Golden Boy Award: 2014
Premier League Player of the Month: August 2016