As time runs down on Raheem Sterling's contract, the likelihood that he could leave Manchester City grows by the day. His next destination could be Chelsea as the Blues believe that they could get a deal done, according to The Athletic. This is the second summer running that Sterling's future has been in the air as he was reportedly offered to Spurs as part of their pursuit of Harry Kane. That fell through due to a lack of Champions League soccer, which wouldn't stand in the way of a possible Chelsea deal. A deal for Chelsea would require them to offer around $73 million, according to Sky Sports.
Sterling scored 17 goals and assisted nine more last season for the Premier League champions, but he had extended dry spells as consistency has been an issue for the England international. Sterling has a complicated legacy at Manchester City. While he has scored 131 goals in 339 appearances, the first thing to come to mind is the goals that he didn't score, like the one against Lyon in the Champions League in 2020. Playing a game based on speed and beating the last man, Sterling can make chances seem easier than they are to the average forward, but finishing has still been the part of his game that is lacking.
Between Premier League play and Champions league, Sterling scored 16 goals, which was good for third-best on the team behind Riyad Mahrez and Kevin de Bruyne. But his expected goal output was a whopping 18.95, which was the best number on the team due to his shot placement.
The Blues have plenty of work to do this summer as they look to move Romelu Lukaku back to Inter Milan, and Sterling could be a piece that helps. They also need to sign almost an entirely new defense as Antonio Rudiger has sealed his move to Spain, while Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso could follow.
What would getting Sterling mean for Christian Pulisic?
Sterling has played across the entire front three during his career, but the majority of his minutes have come on the left wing that was occupied by Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner last season. With Todd Bohely taking over as club owner, it seems unlikely for American ownership to look to sell Pulisic, but signing Sterling would certainly bury him down the roster after a somewhat disappointing season, where he scored eight goals and assisted five more.
Injuries caused Pulisic to be unavailable for 16 games last season, so coach Thomas Tuchel could feel that his best role is changing the game off of the bench. It's certainly not what Pulisic or U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter would want to hear ahead of the World Cup, but if Pulsic is healthy, he will start on the left wing for the United States in Qatar. The hope appears to be that along with moving Lukaku, Chelsea would also be able to find a suiter for Timo Werner during the summer.
If Werner leaves, Sterling's versatility could help him coexist with Pulisic as he can flip to the right in a pinch, allowing Mason Mount to sit deeper. But if he's still at Chelsea at the beginning of the season, minutes could be hard to come by as Tuchel rotates the squad depending on who is hot at the time. It's unlikely that Sterling would move to Chelsea without a guarantee of significant playing time, which makes things much tougher for figuring out the rest of the attack as the Blues are expected to chase a striker.
Why would Chelsea look to add Sterling?
This is where things are uncertain. While Chelsea need help in the attack as they can't have all the creative pressure on wing backs and Mount, it felt like the front three had enough bodies available to function. Hakim Zyiech, Lukaku, and Werner have uncertain futures, but Armando Broja is an option returning from his loan to Southampton, and keeping Mount forward in the attack is an option with Conor Gallagher coming back from Crystal Palace.
As Chelsea look to bridge the gap between third place and first, replacing three to four players with Sterling is a risky proposition, even with other business being done. He's good at creating his own chances with the ball at his feet and could be devastating with Reece James and Ben Chilwell, but it could also end up as a slightly better Werner situation. If Chelsea are looking to improve, Sterling doesn't feel like the right target to turn their weakness into a strength -- Robert Lewandowski does.
Is this the right move for Sterling?
If Sterling feels like he needs a change of scenery instead of signing a new deal at City, this may be the best Premier League option available, but it doesn't feel like there's an appropriate suitor in England. Arsenal can't provide the Champions League soccer he desires, Spurs can't provide the starting minutes he wants, and no one with real value should go to Manchester United until there is proof that things are being turned around.
A move to La Liga would maximize Sterling's strengths while allowing him to compete at the highest levels. When Real Madrid missed out on Kylian Mbappe, a move for Sterling felt like the logical next step, but there's always a chance that he enjoys life in England too much to risk things with a move to Los Blancos. But when it comes to playing time and the ability to win a Champions League title, all eyes should be on Madrid.