Raheem Sterling has pledged to be an outspoken leader at Chelsea, after returning to his hometown of London as a “grown-up”.
The 27-year-old is back in London for the first time in over 10 years, following highly successful spells with Liverpool and Manchester City.
Sterling said his £47.5m switch to Chelsea revolved around his refusal to accept limited playing time at Manchester City nearing the peak of his career.
The 77-capped England forward also revealed Thomas Tuchel’s praise for his direct attacking threat, with the Chelsea boss excited to see Sterling progress towards the Blues with the ball at his feet.
“I’m excited, I’ve grown a little bit off the field,” Sterling said.
“I feel like my whole journey, going up to Liverpool, Manchester, playing for City and living the dream – now I’m going back to London as an adult.
“I have been in football for a long time, I have my head on my shoulders and I know exactly what I want from my life and from my football.
“So it’s the perfect time to come back.
“Inside the dressing room and at the football club, there’s one aspect of me developing that I’d like to see a lot more of, and that’s being more involved in decisions in the dressing room, being more vocal and trying to drive the team on.” .
“I think he (Tuchel) told me it’s my directness, always threatening at the back, not always wanting it on the feet and going in behind.
“But the most important thing is how I attack the box and with the full-backs we’ve got here, he said that’s the one thing he wants to see a lot more of, so that was the conversation there.”
Sterling was born in Jamaica but raised in London, before making a name for himself with a top-flight career at Liverpool and then City.
The striker returns to London with four Premier League titles under his belt, with new Chelsea owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital eyeing him as their top target at the start of the summer.
“The move came, like anything as a person you strive to achieve, and I just felt my time at City was being limited to playing for different reasons,” Sterling said.
“I couldn’t afford to lose that time. So I needed to maintain the same level and a new challenge.
“It’s something I’ve been a regular starter since I was 17, so to get to a peak point in my career, not playing regularly is something I wouldn’t accept.
“My personality is to try to fight and change the scene, but it didn’t happen and that’s it.
“This was a choice that was tailored to my personal goals, with my family as well, and the direction the club is going.
“It’s a team that’s competing and it’s only going to get better. With the new ownership as well, it made a lot of sense.
“It was difficult of course with my time at City and there are a lot of memories and highlights.
“But the year and a bit that I was in and out of the team taught me a lot about myself, it made me appreciate many things and I tried to put things in order.
“It was a difficult decision, but you have to make the decision that’s best for you.
“It’s like coming home, back to London – I’ve been away for a long time, since I was 14 or 15.”
Chelsea banned one fan for life and five others temporarily for racist abuse aimed at Sterling at Stamford Bridge during his Manchester City days in 2019.
However, the new Chelsea recruit insisted the incident had not even crossed his mind amid his decision to join the Blues.
When asked about the abuse in 2019, Sterling added: “This is the first time I can remember.
“It wasn’t anything that played on my mind, I can’t let the abuse of individuals affect my perception of a club.”
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Why Sunday is a statement game for both clubs
The first big six clash of the season takes place at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when Chelsea host Tottenham. live on Sky Sports.
The London derby already feels pivotal in the new season with the game set to give an early indication of where the two clubs stand, especially for Spurs.
“I think it will be a good test to score if they [Tottenham] they are really in the title race,” said former Spurs defender Pascal Chimbonda Sky Sports News.
The reason it is such a huge litmus test for Antonio Conte’s side is down to the club’s dismal record at Stamford Bridge, where Spurs have won just one of their last 37 games in all competitions, with 12 draws and 24 losses.
“Toughest game I’ve seen in 24 years of refereeing” – Battle of the Bridge revisited
Ahead of the latest clash between Chelsea and Tottenham, we look back at one of the most infamous matches in the Premier League’s 30-year history.
Read Joe Shread’s feature here.
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