LONDON: Raheem Sterling is on his way to Chelsea from Manchester City in the first major statement signing of the new Stamford Bridge regime.
Joint owner Todd Boehly is paying £50m for the England striker who has agreed a five-year contract with the option of further year. Sterling’s £300,000-a-week will make him one of the top three earners in English football.
The 27-year-old had one year remaining on his contract with the Premier League champions so collecting a major sum for an unsettled player is a successful piece of business for City. The deal is also evidence of Boehly’s desperation to buy the trust and support of Blues’ fans.
City signed Sterling from Liverpool for £49m in 2015 and he totalled 131 goals in 339 games. Last season Sterling scored 13 goals in 30 appearances as he won his fourth league title, his ninth major honour in seven seasons with City. However he never felt sure of his status under manager Pep Guardiola.
Sterling’s opportunities were restricted by last summer’s signing of Jack Grealish and he was on the substitutes’ bench for both legs of the Champions League semi-final defeat by Real Madrid. Since then City have brought in Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.
His arrival at Chelsea is only one of a string of issues manager Thomas Tuchel must resolve over the next two weeks.
The departures of Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid) and Andreas Christensen (Barcelona) have left gaps in defence while, in attack, Romelu Lukaku has returned to Internazionale on a year-long loan. The Belgian had been Chelsea’s 15-goal top scorer last season in all competitions.
The trio will not be the last departures. Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley and Hakim Ziyech may all follow them out of west London.
The boardroom departures of executive director Marina Granovskaia and sports director Petr Cech mean that Tuchel will have more influence over transfer dealings than any of his managerial predecessors. the best fit, bring the mentality, mindset, positional profile that you need to improve the squad.
One priority is constructing a new defence. Chelsea are close to agreeing a £45m purchase from City of central defender Nathan Aké. Tuchel also wants or or two out of Matthijs De Ligt (Juventus), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) and Jules Koundé (Sevilla).
Sterling will not be the only new forward. Chelsea have bid £55m for Leeds’ Brazil winger Raphinha to fill the space probably being left by Ziyech. The Dutch/Moroccan is hoping for a move to Italy with new Serie A champions AC Milan.
One intriguing question concerns Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal’s captain wants to leave Manchester United and Boehly was quick to discuss a deal with his agent. Tuchel, reportedly, has his doubts.
The experiment with a conventional centre-forward in Lukaku was a proven failure. Tuchel wants a City-style fluid front three in which Sterling would be a perfect fit alongside Kai Havertz and Timo Werner supported by Mason Mount.
Chelsea’s skeleton squad is now in the United States. Players either there or on their way include Armando Broja, outstanding at Southampton last season, plus other loanees in Conor Gallagher, Billy Gilmour, Ethan Ampadu and Michy Batshuayi. Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi, both injured for long periods last season, are also in the squad. Midfielders N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are absent because of Covid vaccination issues.
The Blues will play Mexico’s Club America in Las Vegas on July 17, Charlotte FC on July 21 and Arsenal in Florida on July 23.