Chelsea F.C. have agreed to a transfer with reigning Premier League champions Manchester City F.C. for star English winger Raheem Sterling. The deal between the English giants is reported to be worth £47.5 million, potentially rising to £50 million.
City’s swift capture of generational talent Erling Haaland and Liverpool’s bold speculation on potential gem Darwin Núñez have received intense media attention. However, Sterling’s move may represent a quieter, but equally significant transfer for Chelsea, who are hoping to launch a title challenge in 2022.
Sterling is a right-footed 27-year-old attacker who was employed on the left and right wings for Man City. On the left, he enjoys beating his man and cutting inside with his stronger right foot to threaten the opponent’s goal. On the right, he displays more attacking ingenuity — his blistering pace, one-on-one dribbling and eye for a pass also make him a very productive traditional winger.
Already dangerously adept in wide areas, Sterling is even more threatening when he is in the opponent’s box. With the ball, his deceptive dribbling in tight areas and explosive speed have enabled him to win more penalties than any player in Premier League history. Without the ball, City’s No. 7 displays exceptional “fox in the box” instincts to find open spaces in front of the net — he scored 34 of his first 101 Premier League goals from inside the six-yard box.
Sterling’s complete game and electrifying style of play made the Englishman an integral part of Pep Guardiola’s City side. He will leave Manchester as the Citizens’ second-highest goal scorer of all time, having registered many memorable campaigns in blue.
His 2019-2020 league season in which he scored 20 goals, finishing joint-second in nonpenalty goals, and his 2017-2018 league season in which he notched 18 goals and 11 assists, stand out as his best. These achievements put him in a class of the most elite wingers in the English game.
But despite his undeniable success, Sterling was the victim of unfairly harsh criticism from the English media that started early in his career. He was maligned for a very small handful of missed chances in high-profile games and brief streaks of poor scoring form (which of course is natural, and especially common for goal scoring wingers, including Son Heung-min, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane in recent years).
It may be due to the enduring effects of this unreasonable critical scrutiny on the Jamaican-born Englishman that he has become underappreciated, and now his move to Chelsea is flying under the radar.
Indeed, the 27-year-old is just as productive as ever — he is coming off a season in which he boasted per-90 goal and assist stats that are on par with his best seasons in Manchester. For £50 million, or potentially less, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will receive a proven Premier League star and partially resolve the club’s lack of consistent goal scorers.
His versatility will also be a valuable asset for the Blues. Should Tuchel decide to play with wingers in a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 or two 10s in a 3-4-2-1, Sterling will slot into any wide or creative role to offer a vast and immediate upgrade on the likes of Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic.
Few players have Premier League pedigrees that can rival Sterling’s. With Chelsea tying him down with a five-year contract, there is next to no doubt that he will offer the Blues an exciting half decade filled with dribbles, goals and assists. If all goes according to plan, new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly’s first acquisition may go down as one of his best.