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Break-in at Sterling's home prompts players to rethink security

Richard Sellers / Getty Images Sport / Getty

London, Dec 5, 2022 (AFP) - The break-in that has led England star Raheem Sterling to return home from the World Cup has reportedly prompted other players to bolster security arrangements at their properties.

The Chelsea forward is the latest in a long line of Premier League players whose homes have been targeted while they were away with their clubs or national team.

Sterling's participation in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against France is in doubt after he returned from Qatar to be with his family.

Sterling left the squad after he was omitted from the squad for Sunday's 3-0 win over Senegal to deal with what the Football Association said was a "family matter" following a break-in at his family home in Oxshott, southwest of London, late Saturday.

Conflicting versions of what happened have emerged.

Sterling's spokesperson said on Sunday the intruders were armed and the family were home.

But Surrey Police, in a statement issued Monday, insisted the property had been vacant and the break-in had not involved violence at all.

"The occupants of the property came home and discovered a number of items including jewellery and watches had been stolen," the force said.

"Enquiries to establish the circumstances are underway and the investigation is ongoing.

"No threat of violence was involved as the items were discovered stolen retrospectively."

Rich pickings

Security experts have long warned that Premier League footballers' widely known schedules and visible wealth make their properties obvious targets for criminals.

The Daily Mail reported that given what had happened at Sterling's home, his England team-mates -- some of whom have now have their partners and families with them in Qatar -- were looking at bolstering their own security arrangements.

Some already employ specially trained guard dogs and private security firms, with a number of players having panic rooms built into their homes and hiring bodyguards as well.

"A panic room is a room that's self-contained, that if the house becomes under some form of aggravated break-in, the family can get into that room, be safe and secure and have some independent communication to call for help," Paul Weldon, the managing director of suppliers The Panic Room, told The Sun tabloid.

He added: "But you have to remember, a panic room is a last resort. With a big, detached property you've got to incorporate other systems."

This year alone, several Manchester United players have been victims, with Tahith Chong, Victor Lindelof and Jesse Lingard, now at Nottingham Forest, all having break-ins at their respective homes.

Chong was held at knifepoint by intruders in the middle of the night while Lindelof had his home burgled while his wife and children were present.

Lingard was at an away game when a break-in took place.

Former England full-back Ashley Cole was tied up in front of his children by a gang which threatened to cut off his fingers in 2020.

One of the intruders was jailed for 30 years after a trial earlier this year. But Cole said the break-in had left him and his family still terrified for their own safety.

Two years ago, three burglars were jailed for targeting a number of homes in northwest England, including an attempted break-in where Sterling lived in Cheshire in November 2018 when he was playing for Manchester City.

The Chelsea forward, 27, scored in England's 6-2 win over Iran in their opening group game of the World Cup, before being selected again for the goalless draw with the United States.

England manager Gareth Southgate insisted Sunday that Sterling was under no pressure to make a quick return to Qatar.

"Sometimes football isn't the most important thing and family should come first," he said.

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