Raheem Sterling headed a shortlist of Thomas Tuchel's attacking targets and had entered the final year of his contract with Man City; Chelsea looking for more firepower after Romelu Lukaku rejoined Inter Milan on loan
Wednesday 13 July 2022 17:07, UK
Raheem Sterling has announced his departure from Manchester City ahead of a £47.5m move to Chelsea.
Sterling has agreed personal terms on a five-year contract with the option of a further 12 months and he had a medical with Chelsea on Sunday.
In a statement confirming his City exit, Sterling said: "Seven seasons. Eleven major trophies. A lifetime of memories.
"To the coaching staff who have played a massive role in my development over the years. To my teammates who have become more than just those I share a pitch with. To the backroom staff. To the office staff. To the fans who have tirelessly supported the team. And to everyone involved with Manchester City, my respect for you couldn't be greater.
"What a ride it's been. I am thankful for the ups and downs, as it's the downs that have, at times, tested my strength and resolve, and enabled me to stand here in front of you as the best possible version of myself.
"I arrived in Manchester a 20-year-old, today I leave as a man. Thank you for your endless support. It's been an honour to wear the shirt of Manchester City."
The England international headed a shortlist of Thomas Tuchel's attacking targets and had entered the final year of his contract with City.
Pep Guardiola has repeatedly stated "I don't like to keep players that are unhappy" and was open to allowing Sterling's exit this summer, even to a Premier League rival, on condition that an acceptable bid in the region of £50m was tabled.
Sterling offers Tuchel a guaranteed threat - he has directly contributed a combined 165 goals in the division in 320 appearances for Liverpool and City - as well as tactical flexibility and experience.
The 27-year-old believes he is in the decisive phase of his career and wants to make a significant contribution on and off the pitch.
The fact that City can sell two attackers to members of the 'Big Six' - Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal for £45m and Sterling to Stamford Bridge - without trepidation is a sign of their solid recruitment and the gap that exists between the clubs.
Intra-league transfers at the top end of the table are set to become more common as European teams struggle to financially compete with their English counterparts.
The Athletic's Liam Twomey on Sky Sports News:
"I think it's a transfer that, potentially, works well for all parties. Sterling needs a change of scene; he has fallen out of favour at Manchester City, has a year left on his contract and there doesn't seem to be much of a market for him outside of Chelsea.
"I think a lot of the big Premier League clubs are experiencing this at the moment where it is easier for them to sell to each other, potentially, than to anyone else, given the finances involved. And Chelsea need a way to refresh their attacking options, particularly after letting Romelu Lukaku go back to Inter on loan.
"I think the new owners want to make a statement as well and while Raheem Sterling might not be the most exotic or exciting name to some Chelsea fans, he is Premier League proven, 27 years old, a key England international. He would clearly be a quality addition.
"I think Sterling is a little bit of a polarising target among Chelsea fans and I think part of that is just because he is so familiar. We know his flaws as a player so well, as well as his strengths, as we've been watching him forever in the Premier League and I think that feeds into the way a lot of Chelsea fans see him. But there is no denying he has been a very effective player in top teams in this league for a long, long time, so I think he'd be a very reliable performer.
"We are also seeing an increased willingness from Chelsea to look at Premier League proven targets. They have been burned in the last couple of years by signing players from other leagues who have maybe needed time to adapt or, in some cases, not really adapted at all and not been maximised in the team.
"Someone like Sterling who has already produced at a high level in the Premier League for many years, you can see why that would be attractive to Chelsea and, for Boehly, he's a big name. And at 27, he's someone you could still expect to be productive for several more years."
Sky Sports' Adam Smith:
Sterling ranks fifth for Premier League goal involvements since he made his debut for Liverpool as a 17-year-old in 2012, with his tally of 165 (109 goals and 56 assists) behind only Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy and Mohamed Salah.
That tally is all the more impressive when factoring how the England international failed to hit double-digits for goals in a season until 2017/18, when his 17 goals represented a 157-per-cent leap from the previous campaign.
He proceeded to maintain double figures for league goals in three successive seasons, culminating with his career-best return of 20 in 2019/20.
However, the graphic below shows his numbers have been in decline since 2020/21. Diminishing game time has certainly played its part, with only marginal dips in his per-90 returns.
As the graphic below shows, Sterling clocked only 62 per cent of available game time in the Premier League last term, which was his lowest ratio since his first season at the Etihad.
However, City have progressively deepened their squad in recent years, with all players increasingly rotated to manage fixture schedules across multiple competitions - which is the primary cause for his dwindling minutes.
Indeed, Sterling clocked more league minutes than all other traditional forwards at the club last term and registered 210 more than £100m summer signing Jack Grealish.
Frequently deployed in a false-nine role, in addition to his efficiency as an inverted winger, Sterling has increasingly scored goals from short cut-backs in and around the six-yard box during his seven-year spell at City.
The graphic below plots all of Sterling's shots in the Premier League last term and highlights his knack of tapping in goals from central areas merely yards from the goal-line, which also illustrates his deft movement to carve such opportunities.
The 27-year-old has frequently been accused of spurning clear-cut chances. Indeed, the chart below reveals he has underperformed his expected-goal returns per 90 minutes in six out of 10 seasons since 2012/13 - but the disparity margins are slim, while the actual figures are nothing short of impressive.
Pep Guardiola deployed Sterling on both wings last term, while utilising him in almost equal measure up top and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is likely to pursue a similar plan for the England forward.
The German reaped far greater success with a focus on mobility and short interchanges across his firing line last season after Kai Havertz proved a more fruitful option in this role over traditional striker Romelu Lukaku.
Who will be on the move this summer before the transfer window closes at 11pm on September 1?
Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.