Chelsea choosing well with move for Raheem Sterling rather than Ronaldo

Chelsea choosing well with move for Raheem Sterling rather than Ronaldo

The news has gone down well in Chelsea’s dressing room. Raheem Sterling has agreed a move to Stamford Bridge and his new teammates are eagerly awaiting his arrival. They know what Chelsea would be getting from Sterling: a solid professional whose commitment can never be questioned, an intelligent leader highly motivated after leaving Manchester City, and a proven Premier League goalscorer who should make it easier for Thomas Tuchel to build a more flexible and clinical attack.

There is no doubt that his signing would be an encouraging first step from Todd Boehly, Chelsea’s interim sporting director. The American may be new to the ruthless world of recruitment, but nobody could argue that he had failed to deliver on Sterling.

There was no messing around after Tuchel fixed his gaze on the 27-year-old. This deal makes sense for all involved and the speed with which negotiations have been conducted suggests that Boehly, who has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders following the departures of Marina Granovskaia and Petr Cech, is serious about giving Tuchel the tools to construct a squad in his image.

In that context Sterling looks a good fit. Unlike Romelu Lukaku, who returned to Internazionale on loan last month, the England forward can press. After playing for Pep Guardiola for six years, he is suited to a modern system. And, most importantly from Chelsea’s perspective, he knows how to put the ball in the back of the net.

The final piece in the jigsaw, then? Well, let’s not go down that path again. Signing Lukaku for £97.5m didn’t turn Chelsea into title contenders last season and they still have several holes to fill, particularly with their defence weakened by the departures of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger.

There is much to address. Chelsea want to sign three central defenders, with City’s Nathan Aké, Juventus’s Matthijs de Ligt and Sevilla’s Jules Koundé high on their list, and they could do with some tweaks in midfield. N’Golo Kanté, an irrepressible force at his best, has struggled to stay fit. Jorginho, out of contract next summer, is not robust enough defensively.

But while plenty of uncertainty remains, strengthening in attack by buying Sterling is a promising start. Last season Chelsea’s title challenge unravelled because of their wastefulness. Eleven draws left them off the pace and Tuchel made no secret of his dissatisfaction with his misfiring forwards after Chelsea were held at home by Leicester in May.

It is obvious why Tuchel ran out of patience. With Mason Mount the only Chelsea player who hit double figures in the league last season, questions have to be asked about Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz. Other than Havertz, who goes through spells when he appears to be on course to become one of the best players in the world, none have come close to justifying their expensive fees. Werner is too erratic, Pulisic too flaky and Ziyech, who could join Milan on loan, too inconsistent.

This is a trio who managed 14 league goals between them last season. Sterling, who has reached double figures in the league in each of the past five seasons, got 13. His hunger for goals is vast. Sterling does not stick to the flank and content himself with a few stepovers. He always looks to drive into goalscoring positions and, while Guardiola left him out of a lot of big games last season, he had a huge say in City winning the league on the final day, coming off the bench when they were trailing 2-0 to Aston Villa and sparking the comeback by crossing for Ilkay Gündogan to head in his side’s opening goal.

Chelsea need that decisive quality. Admittedly it is intriguing that Tuchel appears to be veering towards an attack built around using Sterling or Havertz as a false 9, just as City make Erling Haaland their new No 9 and the Uruguay forward Darwin Núñez joins Liverpool, but there is no clear alternative this summer. Top strikers are thin on the ground and Tuchel, who has pondered a switch from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3, needs versatility.

Chelsea’s head coach has also given much thought to signing a winger who can tie a full-back in knots. Hope remains that Leeds’s Raphinha, who favours a move to Barcelona, will end up agreeing to play for Tuchel. The Brazilian had 14 goal involvements last season and Chelsea’s attack would look far more exciting if the 25-year-old and Sterling joined.

The impression is that these are players suited to playing for Tuchel, who is all about the collective. It is easy to see the appeal of signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain or making a bid for Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, but at what cost? Ronaldo brings goals, but what will he do to the team’s shape out of possession? How will he affect Havertz’s development? How will he react to Tuchel’s demands for effort off the ball?

Tuchel’s first inspiration as a coach was Ralf Rangnick, who struggled to get through to Ronaldo last season, and word is that he is not convinced there is much to gain from gambling on the United veteran now. For Boehly, this is a moment to forget about the commercial aspect and think about the team. Ronaldo may be glamorous but Sterling is a far more sensible signing. For Chelsea, it has to be the way forward.

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