Chelsea ready to become transfer market bullies once more with statement signing of Raheem Sterling from rivals Man City
SIZE doesn’t matter for Thomas Tuchel in his determined bid to turn Chelsea into champions.
Letting go of 6ft 3in striker Romelu Lukaku and bringing in 5ft 7in winger Raheem Sterling is a bold move by the deep-thinking German.
But the magnitude of signing a player of the status and style of England ace Sterling from a major rival is a huge statement of intent from within Stamford Bridge.
It displays a tactical shift from head coach Tuchel but also suggests that under the new ownership led by Todd Boehly, Chelsea are ready to be bullies in the transfer market once more.
You have to go back to 2011 and the £50million signing of Fernando Torres for the last example of Chelsea’s financial and football muscle being impossible to resist.
The fact it turned out to be a disaster is neither here nor there.
Before that, it was the summer of 2006 and the skulduggery behind the poaching of Ashley Cole from Arsenal that proved — however distasteful it was — Chelsea were top boys at power grabs.
Sterling’s imminent move from Manchester City back to his London ‘roots’ has been conducted with good grace by all accounts.
Even so, it is the transfer equivalent of a title race six-pointer.
Chelsea are getting a player who can light up a stadium on his own depending on his mood.
It is a big call by both Tuchel and his opposite number Pep Guardiola to give consent to a deal that robs the Premier League champions of one of their most talented players and hands him straight to one of their rivals.
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City and Liverpool were the only teams that finished above Chelsea in the table last season. Admittedly by a long way.
But an in-form Sterling who feels loved and wanted could transform a team which boasts enough explosive skill to win the Champions League but lacks the durability to win the Premier League.
What they need is a player at the top of his game who can inspire his team-mates to turn losing situations into wins.
Former Liverpool ace Sterling, 27, is desperate to win the big trophy that eludes him — to be a champion in Europe.
It sounds like a match made in heaven.
Chelsea’s signings of recent times have lacked the X-factor to take them all the way over 38 games in the league.
Kai Havertz is the only import who has delivered anything close to his billing.
Sterling has won the league four times in seven years at City.
On the final day of last season, he came off the bench with his team losing to Aston Villa and a second successive title hanging in the balance.
Pretty soon Villa were 2-0 up, only for Sterling to set about his work and combine with Ilkay Gundogan in a lethal double act to turn the game on its head and bring the silverware home.
And this while Sterling was at his lowest personal ebb of his time in Manchester.
Left out of the Champions League semi-finals against Real Madrid after starting the season on the sidelines.
Cracks appearing in a once unshakeable relationship with Guardiola.
Sterling eventually won his place back in the side and went on to score 13 Premier League goals between November and May — five more than Lukaku managed in his entire dreary season at Stamford Bridge.
Sterling looks at his City career as hugely successful. The decision to leave is driven purely by professional ambition.
He remains one of the most charismatic players of a generation and will soon be playing for his third major club in English football.
Tuchel is getting a player determined to keep winning major trophies and desperate to prove a point — perfect ingredients for a manager.
So Tuchel will be excited.
New chairman Boehly has a marquee signing to herald the new post-Roman Abramovich era. So he will be proud.
Sterling has taken the hard decision to reject the offer of a new deal with the champions of England because he wants to feel loved.
But only by playing regularly in the biggest games will he be happy.