Chelsea are now hoping to finalise a fee with Manchester City in the next 24 hours in time for Sterling to join up with Thomas Tuchel’s squad for the start of their pre-season tour of America this weekend and become the club’s flagship first signing under new owner Todd Boehly.
Chelsea’s talks with City and Sterling have been going on concurrently and the 27-year-old is expected to cost a fee similar to the £45m that Arsenal have just paid for Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus, who had also entered the final 12 months of his contract at the Etihad Stadium.
Chelsea are hoping Sterling will be in a position to fly to the US on Saturday ahead of matches against Club America in Las Vegas, Charlotte FC in Charlotte and Arsenal in Orlando.
With Belgium striker RomeluLukaku – who earns £325,000 a week at Chelsea – having left on loan for Inter Milan, Sterling is due to become the highest paid player at the club after being awarded a small uplift on his £300,000 a week deal with City. Midfielder N’Golo Kante is Chelsea’s next highest earner on £290,000 a week.
The move has been driven by Sterling’s desire to play all the time. Once a guaranteed starter under Pep Guardiola, Sterling has found himself in and out of the City team over the past 18 months and has been eager for more regular football at a club that can still compete for the biggest trophies and give him the platform to realise his ambitions.
Sterling (right) was impressed by Tuchel’s plans and ambitions for him during very constructive talks with the Chelsea manager and feels his career will be best served by the move as he prepares to enter what he believes will be his peak years. He also attracted interest from Real Madrid among others but has been swung by Chelsea’s strong desire, both publicly and privately, to secure his services.
Sterling informed City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, during amicable face to face talks in late May that he felt he would benefit from a fresh challenge this summer amid no guarantees of consistent playing time at the Premier League champions.
That position did not change as he weighed up his options on holiday last month following England’s Nations League matches, with sources close to the player insisting the decision has been motivated only by his professional ambitions and personal happiness.
Sterling has also been keen to maximise his playing time with the World Cup finals due to take place in Qatar this winter and the arrival of Norway striker Erling Haaland and Argentina forward Julian Alvarez at City raised fresh doubts over where he would fit in Guardiola’s plans.
City wanted Sterling to stay but were of the view that the player would have to be sold if he failed to agree a new contract rather than lose him for nothing next summer.
Etihad officials had agreed to wait until the end of last season to discuss Sterling’s future and it is understood the player was very appreciative of the time and space they afforded him to figure out where his future lay and the respect, transparency and professionalism with which the situation has been handled.
Signed from Liverpool for £49m in 2015, Sterling views his seven years at City, during which time he has won four Premier League titles, the FA Cup and five League Cups, as hugely successful and credits Guardiola and the club’s coaching staff for the tactical development of his game and their parting will be on good terms.
In addition to Sterling, Tuchel would also ideally like to add a centre-half to his squad before the tour although Chelsea face a race against time on that front. They have held talks with Sterling’s City team-mate, Nathan Ake, as well as a host of other defenders, including Jules Kounde, Matthijs de Ligt, Presnel Kimpembe and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Chelsea still have a £55m bid, plus add-ons, on the table for Leeds United winger Raphinha, who is thought to favour a move to Barcelona, and are among the clubs who have been offered Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to leave Manchester United less than 12 months after rejoining them.
Tuchel would have to give his blessing to any move for Ronaldo for that to be pursued although it is unclear how Chelsea would accommodate the Portugal forward’s £775,000 a week wages if a deal got the green light. United have insisted Ronaldo is not for sale but cannot allow the situation to overshadow Erik ten Hag’s preparations for his first season in charge. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd, 2022)