Raheem Sterling is officially a Chelsea player after finalising his transfer from Premier League champions Manchester City. It’s a transfer few would have predicted at the end of last season but, two months and potentially as much as £50 million later, he has returned to his hometown of London with a move to Stamford Bridge.
Sterling, 27, signed for City from Liverpool in July 2015 in a deal worth £49m that made him the most expensive Englishman of all time at the tender age of 20. He spends seven seasons at the Etihad, winning the Premier League title on four occasions as well as claiming seven other trophies and a runners-up medal in the 2020-21 Champions League.
The sprightly forward was in many ways emblematic of manager Pep Guardiola’s time in charge of City. No player has been directly involved in more goals for the club in the Guardiola era, with Sterling scoring (120) and assisting (66) a total of 186 in all competitions since the Spanish coach arrived before the 2016-17 season. Of those 120 goals for Guardiola, 113 were scored from inside the penalty area, and 46 of those were finished from inside the 6-yard box.
Of course he’s also rattled off a smattering of brilliant 20-yard curlers here and there (and even the odd header from the 5-foot-7 forward) but, if you imagine a standard Sterling goal, chances are you’re picturing a rushing far-post tap-in. It’s what he does, and he does it better than almost anybody else. Call it a knack, or call it a byproduct of a now-instinctive positional awareness that has been honed to perfection.
Overall, the forward has scored 131 goals and registered 74 assists in 337 competitive games for City since making his debut in a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in August 2015. So Chelsea are signing one of English football’s most productive forwards, even if he is not necessarily a player they were crying out for.
This summer the Blues’ only recognised centre-forward, Romelu Lukaku, has been loaned back to Inter Milan just a year after his ill-fated €115m signing from the Italian club, while there are already several players in coach Thomas Tuchel’s squad who, like Sterling, can play in one or more attacking positions in wide areas, behind a striker or as a false No. 9: Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.