13 months ago, with the Champions League title secured, Chelsea were tipped by many to mount a challenge for the Premier League. Thomas Tuchel had created an unparalleled defensive unit, and after a frustrating season with underperforming, multi-million pound forwards, there were signs of attacking cohesion from a group set to be bolstered by a £97.5m striker.
Now, with Romelu Lukaku heading back to Inter after just one season and the failure of the forwards around him to kick on to an appropriate level, 90min understands Thomas Tuchel is looking to Raheem Sterling as one of the first men through the door to start a rebuild at Stamford Bridge.
It's been quite the reality jolt for Chelsea. Having been among the favourites to win the Premier League last term, even topping the table in October and November, they're now looking to sign players to ensure they make the top four next season, amid a surge of transfer activity from Arsenal and Tottenham.
While their London rivals have made significant additions, Chelsea have been forced into circumspection through the change of ownership and the inability to talk to potential new players or negotiate contracts before Todd Boehly and his consortium were officially announced as the new custodians of the club.
The defence is in dire need of a revamp following the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, but Tuchel and Boehly – Chelsea's new transfer tandem – are right to target Sterling as their forward priority. He's a world class footballer, who scores goals and provides assists, and (please excuse how Brexit-y this sounds, I will explain) he's from the right country.
It's not that he's English, though that helps with the homegrown allocation, but he's a proven Premier League star, and those signings have generally been successful and too few at Chelsea.
In the last ten years, the Blues have signed just 12 players either directly from Premier League clubs or those who had previously played in the English top flight. Of those 12, four of them – Loic Remy, Demba Ba, Willy Caballero and Asmir Begovic – were signed as bit-part players for relatively meagre sums and were thus.
Ben Chilwell, Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses proved to be excellent wing-backs. Olivier Giroud did exactly what was expected of him and perhaps should have played more. N'Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas are probably the two best signings the club has made in that time.
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Danny Drinkwater was admittedly a disaster, and so too was Lukaku, but that was always an odd move given the way Chelsea had played to that point under Tuchel, who quite possibly didn't want him anyway. Hedoes want Sterling, and two from 12 isn't a bad flop rate. In fact, for Chelsea, particularly when it comes to forwards, it's really rather good.
They desperately need a risk-free addition to their forward ranks, with the current crop consistently failing to meet the mark necessary to compete with the swathes of talent Manchester City and Liverpool have to call on, with more on the way.
Sterling may not be as exciting a signing as Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, or potentially Ousmane Dembele, partly because it will be difficult for some Chelsea fans to get past seeing him as a Manchester City outcast rather than simply a brilliant footballer, and partly because the unknown aspect of a foreign signing is so intriguing.
But Chelsea are right to avoid the exotic and unknown for as close a guarantee of goals and assists as it's possible to buy in the Premier League right now. Signing Sterling will be seen as mundane by some, but those people are likely those who see transfers as status symbols in and of themselves, rather than as a pure means to win games of football.
If Sterling is boring and Dembele is exciting, bring on the boredom.
Source : 90min