The pair both joined City in the summer of 2015 in big-money deals, Sterling from Liverpool for £44million and De Bruyne from Wolfsburg for £55m.
De Bruyne, after his brief spell at Chelsea, was well aware of his fellow new arrival’s reputation but was surprised to discover the man did not live up to his billing.
“Before I came to Manchester City, I didn’t really know what to make of this Raheem Sterling guy,” the Belgium midfielder wrote in a piece in The Players’ Tribune.
“I had never met him, and from what I’d read about him…I thought he was going to be a very different character.
“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 d***head, maybe?
“They said Raheem was this flashy guy who left Liverpool for money. They said I was ‘the Chelsea reject’. They said we were difficult characters.
“Then I got to City and I actually met Raheem, and we’d talk a bit after training, and I thought, ‘Wait, this guy seems really cool? What’s the story here?’
“I really got to know Raheem, and I recognised what a smart and genuine person he is. He couldn’t be more different.
“This is the real truth: Raheem is one of the nicest, most humble guys I’ve met in football.”
The perception of Sterling has shifted in the time since he left Liverpool as a precocious teenager and his outspoken views on racism, in addition to the way he has handled abuse on the pitch, have earned him much praise.
Coupled with his form on the pitch the England international is one of the leading candidates for this year’s Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year Award.
With a bit more good luck with injuries this season De Bruyne could have been joining him on that list.
“Raheem and I have this strong connection, because we arrived at City around the same time, and there was a lot of negativity about us in the press,” the Belgian added.
“When I was at Chelsea, there was so much in the press about my relationship with Jose Mourinho but the truth is that I only ever spoke to him twice.
“I thought maybe Chelsea would let me go (in the summer of 2013) but then Mourinho texted me (to say) ‘You are staying. I want you to be part of this team’.
“I started two of the first four games of the season, after the fourth game that was it. I was on the bench, and I never really got a chance again.
“I didn’t get an explanation. I was just out of favour for some reason.
“Jose called me into his office in December, and it was probably the second big life-changing moment for me.
“He had some papers in front of him, and he said: ‘One assist. Zero goals. Ten recoveries’.
“I was completely honest. I said: ‘I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me’.
“So the club ended up selling me, and there was no big problem at all. Chelsea got more than double the price they paid for me, and I got into a much better situation at Wolfsburg.”
De Bruyne could still play a pivotal part in City’s quest for the quadruple but it has been a frustrating time for him this season.
“This season has not been easy for me. The injuries and the matches that I’ve missed have been extremely difficult for me, mentally,” he said.
“Sitting and watching a match from the stands is basically worse than torture for me. I can’t cope.
“Even at funerals, I don’t cry. But if you take football away from me? Forget it. I can’t cope.”
Pep Guardiola feels Manchester City will have to win all their remaining five games to pip Liverpool and retain the Premier League title.
City briefly took top spot on Sunday afternoon following a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace, until the Reds went back to the summit by beating Chelsea.
It means City remain two points behind but, crucially, they have a game in hand, and Guardiola believes they cannot afford a single slip-up during the run-in.
“We think Liverpool are going to win all their games, but the Premier League position is in our hands,” he said.
“We have to win every game if we want to make back-to-back titles. We know that, and the players have shown they want to do it, and I didn’t have any doubts about that.”
Selhurst Park has been a graveyard for title campaigns in the recent past, notably when Liverpool’s wheels came off in 2014 and City suffered a similar fate a year later.
But Raheem Sterling’s double and a late third from Gabriel Jesus, after Luka Milivojevic gave Palace brief hope with a free-kick, kept City’s bid to retain their crown firmly on track.
“I’m so pleased,” added Guardiola. “The amount of games we have had – Brighton, and three days later the Champions League, and now here, and the way we played for 75 or 80 minutes was really good.
“In two seasons we’ve got 83 points with five games left. Incredible numbers and it shows how consistent we are.”
Palace boss Roy Hodgson has no doubt they can pull off an unprecedented four-timer.
“I think they look in very good shape,” he said. “They came here with a fully-fit squad and they paid us the respect of putting a very strong team out. That doesn’t make the task any easier.
“I can only say what everyone else knows. They are a very good team and will take some beating in any competition they play.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Sadio Mane’s header early in the second half was followed moments later by a goal-of-the-season contender from Mohamed Salah and, after two uncharacteristic misses by Eden Hazard, the Reds regained the top spot they had lost 90 minutes earlier to Manchester City.
Salah’s goal was worthy of winning a title let alone a game, but for now Liverpool will settle for the latter.
A two-point lead over City, winners at Crystal Palace, was restored and proved Jurgen Klopp’s previous assertion that no-one is getting rid of his side in this most enthralling of races.
Here’s a look at how the players rated.
Alisson Becker 7 – Always seemed to be in the right place to alleviate danger and made himself big in the key moments.
Trent Alexander-Arnold 7 – Composed defensively and delivered some dangerous crosses and set-pieces.
Joel Matip 6 – Had a few awkward moments against Eden Hazard but stood up well.
Virgil Van Dijk 7 – Judged the game well and held firm under pressure.
Andrew Robertson 6 – Got forward when he could and linked well with Naby Keita.
Naby Keita 6 – Positive performance, getting back to win possession and drive forward.
Jordan Henderson 7 – Made his presence felt and pushed forward until being forced off injured.
Fabinho 7 – Made some strong challenges as Liverpool sought midfield control.
Mohamed Salah 8 – Looked lively throughout and scored a stunning goal.
Roberto Firmino 7 – Linked well with his fellow forwards in and around the box and had a good chance himself.
Sadio Mane 8 – Was in the right place to open the scoring while he kept Chelsea’s defence on their toes with his movement on and off the ball and his crossing.
Georginio Wijnaldum 6 – Enabled Liverpool to take the sting out of the game just as Chelsea were starting to threaten.
James Milner 6 – Brought his usual assurance in the latter stages.
Xherdan Shaqiri 5 – Made only a late entrance.
*Copy provided by Press Association Sport