Raheem Sterling: Why are Man City letting him go and why are Chelsea signing him?

Raheem Sterling will be the second player this summer to leave Manchester City for one of their ‘big six’ rivals after agree personal terms with Chelsea.

Having also sold Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal and signed Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, City are going to be different this season.

Chelsea will also have a new look, with the arrival of England striker Sterling following Romelu Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan.

So what is Sterling’s legacy at City, why is he leaving and what will he bring alongside Thomas Tuchel?

How will he be remembered at City?

Most combined goals and assists for Man City under Guardiola

City have won 29 major trophies in their history, including 12 while Sterling was there – including four of their eight league titles, five of their eight League Cups and an FA Cup.

He leaves with 131 goals and 74 assists in 339 games in seven seasons after leaving Liverpool.

He also played a hugely important role in Pep Guardiola’s managerial career, playing more games (292) for the Catalan than anyone else.

Only Lionel Messi (211) and Sergio Aguero (124) have scored more goals for Guardiola than Sterling’s 120. He is also third in assists, with 66, only behind Kevin de Bruyne (105) and Messi (80).

“He’s been an incredibly important player in all these seasons, with all the goals and assists, and when he has confidence he’s a really, really important player,” Guardiola said last season.

But despite this, Sterling never really established himself as a legend in the eyes of City fans.

“Sterling was never a crowd favourite, which is hard to explain as he has now won more Premier League titles than any non-Manchester United player except John Terry and Fernandinho,” said BBC Sport’s Simon Stone.

“His form has been uneven. Sometimes he looks really effective, other times he can be quite a waste and still misses chances in front of goal. Yet he remains a danger with the ball at his feet and his best days might yet be ahead of him.

“He could be one of those players whose time at City is more valued in retrospect than it was back then.”

Why are Man City letting him go?

Sterling’s huge success at City begs an obvious question: why are they allowing him to leave for a potential title rival?

There are two big factors. One is the fact that he’s out of contract next summer, so it was the last chance to cash in – and the other comes with the signing of Haaland.

City have often played without an orthodox striker over the past two seasons as Aguero picked up a serious injury and then left for Barcelona.

But the £51million signing of Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland, who scored over 150 goals at the age of 21, is sure to change all that.

Only nine of Sterling’s 47 games last season were central, but Phil Foden – who was the nominal centre-forward on 19 occasions – will be in a winger role most of the time.

Sterling started just 23 Premier League games last season – and that was without Haaland at the club.

“City did not actively want him to leave and would have been happy for him to stay,” Stone added. “But he also wanted to be an integral part of a team competing at the highest level. Pep would never guarantee that.

“Ideally they would have sold to a non-Premier League club. However, if Chelsea were willing to pay more than anyone else for a player who could have left for nothing in 12 months, financially , it’s logic.”

What will be his place at Chelsea?

Mason Mount and Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku was Chelsea’s top scorer in all competitions last season with 15 goals, with Mason Mount being their top scorer in the league with 11.
2021-22 Romelu Lukaku: 15 17
2020-21 Tammy Abraham/Timo Werner: 12 14
2019-20 Tammy Abraham: 18 31
2018-19 Eden Hazard: 21 25
2017-18 Eden Hazard: 17 23

One thing Chelsea will get is goals and assists, which they have been lacking despite their recent success.

The last time a Chelsea player scored more goals in a season than Sterling – both in the league and in all competitions – was Diego Costa in 2016-17.

“Given his goalscoring ability, Sterling may look like an improvement on those already in place and make up for the shortfall left by Lukaku,” said BBC Sport’s Alistair Magowan.

“It also represents a statement of intent from the new owners, who are believed to have ambitious plans in the transfer market.

“Basically, this is the first signing made by Tuchel since he was given more power under co-owner and interim sporting director Todd Boehly following the departures of technical and performance adviser Petr Cech and manager. Marina Granovskaia, who managed the negotiations.

Since 2017-18, the England striker has scored 110 goals and created a further 51 in all competitions for City.

Olivier Giroud (39) – now at AC Milan – and Eden Hazard (38) remain Chelsea’s top scorers over this period. Hazard left for Real Madrid three years ago. Willian, who left two years ago, is their top assist with 31.

Sterling could slot in as a false nine, a system that Chelsea boss Tuchel seems to favour. Chelsea will be even more likely to play without a proper striker after sending last season’s top scorer Lukaku on loan to Inter Milan.

Last season, Sterling had more touches in the opposition box (8.93) per 90 minutes than any Chelsea striker remaining at the club.

He also attempted and completed more dribbles than any Blues front line. Hakim Ziyech and Mason Mount played more passes than Sterling and – despite scoring more goals – Sterling took fewer shots than Ziyech, Timo Werner, Mount and Kai Havertz per 90 minutes.

Chelsea already have plenty of attacking options but need someone who creates and scores goals regularly.

“Sterling’s arrival will raise questions about the future of wide forwards Werner, Christian Pulisic and Ziyech,” Magowan said.

“These are all signings made before Tuchel was appointed midway through the 2020-21 season.

“With Sterling there will be extra pressure on Tuchel. The manager will need a goal return, but the success of the signing may also depend on whether Werner, Pulisic or Ziyech also leave the club, which will avoid frustrations on playing time and will help balance the books under a majority private equity stake.”

Can you name these players who have evolved between the big six clubs?

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