Chelsea are closing in on the signing of Raheem Sterling after agreeing personal terms with the Manchester City forward.
Sterling has told City it is the right time for him to leave and he is expected to become the first marquee signing under the new ownership at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are aiming to finalize a fee of about £45m in the next 24 hours and they hope the England international will join the squad when they fly on Saturday to the US for their pre-season tour.
The deal would be a major boost for Thomas Tuchel, who has held constructive talks with Sterling about where he plans to use him. Chelsea lacked ruthlessness last season and needed additions in attack after allowing Romelu Lukaku to return to Internazionale on loan.
Sterling, who has won four Premier League titles since joining City from Liverpool in 2015, will hope to boost Chelsea’s cutting edge. The 27‑year‑old forward, who attracted interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, scored 17 goals last season.
However Sterling has not been a regular starter for Pep Guardiola’s side in the biggest games over the past two years and he wants to leave City, who have sold Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal for £45m, to play more regularly. He has not failed out with the club, he is thankful to Guardiola for improving his tactical awareness and his thinking about him is not based around money. Sterling, whose £300,000-a-week contract runs out next year, has received assurances from Tuchel that he will be a key player at Chelsea.
Tuchel is keen to build a more flexible, versatile attack. Lukaku did not fit into his system after a £97.5m move from Inter last summer, and Chelsea know it will not be easy to bring in a No 9. Robert Lewandowski is a potential target but the prolific Bayern Munich striker remains set on joining Barcelona .
That has left Chelsea to focus on nimble wide players who can chip in with goals. They agreed £55m fee with Leeds for Raphinha last week, only for the Brazil winger to indicate that his preference is to join Barcelona. It remains to be seen whether Barça, who have been engulfed by a major financial crisis, can agree to a fee. The La Liga club remain in talks with Ousmane Dembélé over a contract extension. Chelsea have looked at signing the winger on a free.
Chelsea, who could let Hakim Ziyech join Milan on loan, are also focused on strengthening their defense after losing Andreas Christensen to Barcelona and Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid. They are also in talks with City over a deal for Nathan Aké, who is keen to play more regularly. It is also understood that Matthijs de Ligt remains open to joining Chelsea despite Bayern targeting the Juventus defender. Other targets for Chelsea include Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Sevilla’s Jules Koundé.
Central midfield is also an issue for Chelsea, with N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho out of contract next summer. They are monitoring developments around Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, who is a key target for Manchester United, and have an eye on Sporting Lisbon’s Matheus Nunes, who has also been watched by City. However Chelsea have made no move for Nunes.
Chelsea are also considering a move for Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to leave United. Todd Boehly, the club’s new chairman, is intrigued by the idea of signing Ronaldo but there are doubts about whether Tuchel wants the Portugal forward.